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(2004) (Julia Stiles, Luke Mably) (PG)

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Romantic Comedy: An American college student unknowingly falls for the Prince of Denmark who's posing as a classmate to get away from his royal duties.
Paige Morgan (JULIA STILES) is a college student who grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm with her family, including parents Morgan (ALBERTA WATSON) and Ben (JOHN BOURGEOIS), and now wishes to attend med school so that she can work for Doctors without Borders.

Edward (LUKE MABLY) is the crown prince of Denmark whose mother, Queen Rosalind (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), and ailing father, King Haraald (JAMES FOX), aren't pleased that their dashing playboy son doesn't take his royal responsibilities more seriously.

Leaving them and 12-year-old sister Princess Arabella (ELIZA BENNETT), Edward decides to visit America and attend a Wisconsin college after seeing one of those "wild girls" video promotions.

Accompanied by his personal servant, Soren (BEN MILLER), Edward poses as Eddie and doesn't let anyone know of his heritage or position. It's not long before he meets and is instantly smitten with Paige, although the feeling isn't initially mutual.

Yet, she eventually finds herself falling for him and the two become an item. From that point on, and once she learns of his true identity, Paige must decide the appropriate course between her academic and future professional life and the longings of her heart.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
It's been exactly three weeks since I first saw "The Prince & Me" and I'm still struggling to figure out how to start my review about it. That's not specifically because 1,500+ reviews have pretty much extinguished the options (although that is a contributing factor).

Instead, it's that the film falls into the young romantic comedy genre and is so mundane, predictable and bland that it's hard to find anything to say about it that hasn't been said many times before about others of its ilk.

If not for the still charismatic presence of Julia Stiles in the lead role, the film would be instantly forgettable, although it still tries mighty hard to meet the requirements of that distinction. Aside from possibly being the only romantic comedy that features various direct references to Shakespeare's "Hamlet" -- which can be seen from the moment we note that her character is struggling with the Bard and her future suitor just so happens to be conveniently from Denmark -- there's nothing here you haven't seen before in just about every other romantic comedy released in the past decade.

That very "quality" will obviously appeal to the genre's junkies who love such predictability and repetitiveness. For those of us who aren't hooked, however, each such effort only gets that much more tiresome and tedious with each subsequent release.

And so it goes for this film that's been penned by Jack Amiel (making his feature debut), Michael Begler (ditto) and Katherine Fugate ("Carolina," "Kounterfeit"). Par the course, the two main characters meet, clash, become friends and eventually realize that the script dictates they become lovers. Of course, one of them is harboring a potentially romance killing secret that, when unleashed, will have young girls (and those with young and less discerning hearts) worrying that it might be over between them.

Fear not, intrepid junkie, for the laws of the mistaken identity romantic comedy genre dictate a happy ending. To get there, however, the film -- at about the two-thirds mark and after said earth-shattering revelation/discovery -- decides to turn into a different sort of picture.

While it's always sported a sort of fish out of water story (the Prince and his assistant trying to fit into American college life), it goes more so that direction when the college student travels back to his country and must deal with the fairy tale aspect of possibly becoming the queen.

Considering the formulaic approach of the first two-thirds of the film, that would seem to be a good thing. Yet, director Martha Coolidge ("Out to Sea," "Three Wishes") simply leads the story down a different yet even more predictable sort of genre path. Yes, I understand that the very nature of the material is what makes it so welcome to the target audience, but can't somebody -- anybody, please -- do something original with such material?

Stiles ("Mona Lisa Smile," "A Guy Thing"), manages to do the best she can with what's been given to her, but don't be fooled that any of it's remotely taxing her abilities. Her chemistry with co-star Luke Mably ("28 Days Later") is decent and will clearly have certain viewers smiling and feeling all warm and tingly inside. Ben Miller ("Johnny English," "Birthday Girl") is present as the more traditional comic character, but the script comes up rather short in such regards.

James Fox ("Sexy Beast," "The Golden Bowl") plays the King who oddly goes from death bed scenes to parties and then back again (so much for shooting films out of sequence). Miranda Richardson ("The Hours," "Spider") plays the cold Queen who, shock of all shocks, suddenly comes around and likes our girl for who and what she is (which is followed by the obligatory "let's go shopping scene" that just so happens to take place inside the palace's in-house jewelry cave).

If you haven't yet guessed, this is undeniably a "chick flick." That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but every bit of it is so predictable and governed by heavy foreshadowing that I ended up feeling like a cinematic psychic.

Accordingly, I knew I was going to feel like retching when the prince applies his brief American farm knowledge to solving a labor strike back in his country. The target audience will likely beg to differ, just like they will over the "awe-fully" predictable final "surprise" scene. While not necessarily bad, "The Prince & Me" is just too bland that it only rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 11, 2004 / Posted April 2, 2004

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