The Prince & Me

on April 02, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
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Since her breakout in 1999's "10 Things I Hate About You," Julia Stiles has starred in three Shakespeare adaptations, including Michael Almereyda's anachronistic "Hamlet" and the controversial "O." Her skewering of the Bard, then, in "The Prince & Me" was potentially delightfully ironic. Her science-geek character brands the Shakespeare class she's taking for her college humanities requirement as "useless" and ends up dating a "whiny prince from Denmark." That the filmmakers had their tongues lodged in their cheeks, however, would be giving them too much credit.

With eyes on John Hopkins medical school and ambitions to minister to the unprivileged of the world, Wisconsin pre-med student Paige Morgan (Stiles) has little patience for distractions. Take romance, for example. Paige resists mightily falling for her irresponsible chemistry lab partner Eddie (Luke Mably). But, as soon the handsome rogue has won her affection, it's revealed that he's actually the prince of Denmark and must return to accept the crown from his ailing father. This turn of events forces Paige to choose between following her dreams and living out a real-life fairytale.

One expects that early drafts of this script--or perhaps scenes now gathering dust on the cutting-room floor--aimed to illustrated how the ultra-motivated Paige encouraged Eddie to focus, enabling him to step up and take his father's place on the throne with confidence and poise. There are no such scenes in the final cut, however, and thus his transformation from drag-racing bad boy to deft political negotiator is jarring to say the least.

Paige's softening to the idea of romance--under the influence of a certain English poet--is more gradual and easier to accept. Still, the picture's message of empowerment is undermined by an awkward final scene in which Eddie assures Paige that she can have it all, although there's no explanation on how this could possibly work. One supposes it's a convention of the genre that there is no such thing as a happy ending in which the boy doesn't get the girl.

Perhaps such lapses in logic could be overlooked were "The Prince & Me" clever or even just funny, but it's not. Stiles is a smart, beautiful, mature actress who has demonstrated a keen taste in projects in the past--note her much-admired rather minor role in the smart thriller "The Bourne Identity." She's better than this. Starring Julia Stiles, Luke Mably, Ben Miller, James Fox and Miranda Richardson. Directed by Martha Coolidge. Written by Jack Amiel, Michael Begler and Katherine Fugate. Produced by Mark Amin. A Paramount release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG for some sex-related material and language. Running time: 110 min

Tags: Julia Stiles, medical school, princess, romance, college, fairy tale, Luke Mably, Ben Miller, James Fox, Miranda Richardson, Martha Coolidge
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