Mia's visiting grandmother has a surprise for her: she's a princess. And it turns out that she's due to inherit the throne. But first she needs a makeover and a long hard think about her future.
Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall has already proved that he knows how to work the Ugly Duckling story for a female audience, and here he pitches to a younger clientele with the ultimate girl teen dream - a makeover movie. Add to that the fact that our misfit heroine is actually a princess-in-waiting, and it's got to be nothing less than a winner, right? Well, not entirely.
What begins as a promising tale of the quirky girl in school who's floored by the news of her blue blood, rapidly falls down in terms of execution and dialogue once the etiquette training process begins.
Julie Andrews may bring impeccable credentials to her role as the royal grandmother intent on grooming her prodigy for the throne, but it's her scenes that are the clumsiest in both script and direction.Queen Clarisse's relentless vocal despair at Mia's scruffiness lacks subtlety, and a 'secret' flirtation with her manservant (Hector Elizondo) is mannered and unconvincing.
It's the young ones that get the best scenes here, as Mia struggles to come to terms with her new-found fame, and finds her loyalties tested when she's suddenly the most popular girl in school. Heather Matarazzo effortlessly reprises her Welcome To The Dollhouse role as Mia's offbeat best friend, and the relationship between the two is by far the film's most emotionally involving - that's including the token romance with the boy next door.
Despite the movie's tiring persistence that we should be primarily concerned with Mia's decision on whether or not to take the throne (signifying adult responsibilities and public spirit), the classic popularity-versus-individuality moral proves more persuasive. This films knows its young audience, but it doesn't over-exert itself for them, lacking the charm and polish of the likes of Never Been Kissed and, indeed, Pretty Woman.
A light, uneven Pygmalion story that may win young girls over with its wish fulfilment theme and teen movie staples, but does not live up to the expectations created by the cast and director.