Haters gonna hate, I know, but I love this movie. I love that it shows a teenage girl who is good at some things and bad at others, and, because of the vagaries of the adolescent mind, thinks that she’s bad at everything. I love that her validation comes chiefly from the women in her life, but that she has the courage to stand up even to them when necessary (as we know from Dumbledore, this is one of the hardest things to do). I love that she has a stupid crush on the stupid cute boy (and, boy, is the casting spot on for a boy you’d be mad for at fifteen, and hate yourself about forever after), and knows that it’s stupid, but falls for it anyway. I love the car, I love the quiet but great love interest, I love Joe the security guy, I love the wonderfully supportive gym teacher, and I even love Sandra Oh’s sycophantic but ultimately worthwhile Principal Gupta.

You can bitch and moan about the centrality of the makeover, if you are joyless and naïve. People, even deep people, care about how they look, and learning to do the best you can with what you have (even if you are not beautiful like Anne Hathaway) is an excellent first step on the way to confidence. Blame the patriarchy if you like, but that won’t necessarily make you feel better.

Stray notes:

  • I do not love the M&M pizza. That ruins two amazing things.
  • The second movie is funnier but less touching, perhaps because more exaggerated and silly. By the time you graduate from Princeton, you should stop falling in fountains at fancy parties, even if Chris Pine is involved.
  • In the Princess Diaries books, the grandmother is amazing and mean and has tattooed-on eyebrows and a general air of capable evil, and, if it didn’t mean giving up the joy of Julie Andrews, I wish she were that way in the movies, too.

Director: Garry Marshall
Rating: G
Length: 115 min.
Score: 4/5.