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5/10
Nicely Cast, Dismally Written
21 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has a few saving graces - namely, its cast. Anne Hathaway, Robert Carmine, Heather Matarazzo, and Larry Miller are wonderfully cast so as to bring to life the characters of the charming novel chronicles of Mia Thermapolis. It is near impossible to imagine anyone else in the roles of Mia, Michael and Lilly. However, other characters (most often ones invented for the movie to suit other Gary Marshall regulars), are not very well-cast. Julie Andrews is far too sweet for the horrific terror that is Grandmere in the books. Other attractive, but not necessarily talented, actors fill the parts of Mia's family, friends, and enemies, including the otherwise winning Hector Elizondo who doesn't suit the original role of Mia's Swedish bodyguard Lars at all.

This movie, if aimed toward its original intended audience, and written extremely better, would have been a cult classic, if not an everlasting cinematic masterpiece. The novels by Meg Cabot are a perfect blend of comedy and near-tragedy, and, if properly adapted, would surely have an impact on its viewers. The characters in this movie are POORLY developed. Time and again, sacrifices are made to plot and character to set up for slapstick moments or otherwise clichéd Disney bits. With all of these sacrifices, it's hard to find these moments the least bit endearing. The whole movie is but a splay of these various Disney "bits." Unnescessary changes are made EVERYWHERE. Names are changed, the entire setting is flopped to the other side of the country, the antagonistic Grandmere is replaced with sweet grandma Clarisse, instead of rendering Mia's estranged father impotent he is killed off, Genovia is changed from sensible principality to inexplicable kingdom, and numerous names were ever so slightly altered for no apparent reason. Another issue that should be much more heavily touched upon is the ethnic cleansing of the casting. Originally, Albert Einstein HS was much more diverse. Indian characters Tina Hakim Baba and her boyfriend are not even supplanted in the film (robbing it of a touching arc in the story that displays Mia's sensitivity). Also removed is Shameeka, one of Mia's black friends. This really upsets me because these were all very good characters besides adding a healthy dose of ethnic variety. Also supplanted is Lilly's boyfriend, a Russian violinist, with magician Jeremiah. Makes you wonder if perhaps the original novel was a bit too "racy" for Disney, if you'll excuse the pun.

If there had even BEEN a plot for this movie, I would have been satisfied. However, it seems as though there was not even a semblance of it. It is just a collage of exhibitions of Mia's clumsiness. Intelligent humor, dry humor, sarcasm and aspects of the liberal lifestyle of Mia and family of the novel are completely eradicated. This film robs the novel of its charm, and its only redeeming feature is, again, the casting of the lead characters (excluding Julie Andrews).

Not only is this a dismal failure as an adaptation, its immature humor gives the film a feeble foundation - capitalizing on slapstick and the makeover turning point for Mia, it is hardly anything new, and only Anne Hathaway and company make this film truly worthwhile. It is my hope that this film will someday be revisited by a screenwriter who would remain truer to the witty and fun novels that it claims to be based on. It would be a shame that such a film mightn't have Robert Carmine, Anne Hathaway, and Heather Matarazzo in it.
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