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The Prince & Me

At this point, it would appear the average midlist romantic comedy has a checklist that's followed with the same precision as a typical space-shuttle launch. And nowhere is this more true than the "young adult" rom-com subcategory. Somewhat well-known, generically attractive all-American female lead — check. Incredibly good-looking, somewhat mysterious male lead with Oxbridge accent — check. Female lead finds herself torn between life-goals and hormonally infused love for mysterious English bloke — check. Said love makes errant bloke change his playboy ways and reveal a depth of character implied but largely unseen — check. And for the coup de grace, paint in a backdrop featuring lush European locations and a shameless fairy-tale romance. Thus, The Prince & Me (2004), which hits all of the right notes but does not graduate at top of its genre. Julia Stiles stars as Paige Morgan, a Wisconsin farmgirl who heads off to college with dreams of going to medical school and eventually joining Doctors Without Borders so she can do volunteer work in third-world nations. But unfortunately for Paige, arriving at the same Wisconsin college that fall is Prince Edvard of Denmark (Luke Malby). Not that he goes by that name. After a spat with his royal parentage, playboy Edvard sets out for America and becomes "Eddie," and one couldn't pick him out as European nobility, except for the fact that he's accompanied nearly everywhere by his manservant Soren (Ben Miller). He also doesn't seem particularly noble, considering that he decided to enroll in an American university after seeing a "Girls Gone Wild" video. Needless to say, the Danish lad about town doesn't hit it off with science-geek Paige, but after the double-coincidence of becoming her lab partner in chemistry and her co-worker in the student union's cafeteria, sparks begin to fly. It doesn't hurt either that numskull Eddie actually knows enough about literature to coach Paige through her Shakespeare final. But once the European paparazzi locates Prince Edvard in Wisconsin, the secret's out. Paige is devastated, but on a whim she flies to Denmark, where she hopes to rekindle the only love she's ever allowed herself to feel. There's no denying the screen appeal of The Prince & Me's leading players. While Julia Stiles still appears to be looking for the sort of project that will get her off the B-list (it's fairly obvious that she doesn't intend to become the next Sandra Bullock), she's more than capable of appearing both smart and vulnerable in this sort of role. Like Stiles, Luke Mably (28 Days Later) may be too generic to ever become a major player, but he fits the bill in this paperback romance. But where the film ultimately becomes disappointing is in its plot-structure. The first half of the movie is reasonably entertaining enough, but once the action moves to Denmark, it reaches a conclusion of sorts, forcing an entire second script to get underway. This part of the movie also has its merits, particularly in regards to the very un-romantic, carefully managed lives of modern royalty. But Paige's inevitable dissatisfaction with European nobility forces the film to make an abrupt shift, and an even more abrupt, slap-dash final scene, before it can offer the requisite happy ending. (In fact, the bittersweet alternate ending offered on this DVD is the more honest one, and also looks like a test-screening flop.) Had the plot remained in Wisconsin — perhaps saving a European story for a sequel — the movie would be a far more satisfying spin. That said, fans of syrupy rom-coms probably won't mind, particularly when it comes to a film as formulaic as this. Paramount's DVD release of The Prince & Me features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Supplements include a commentary from veteran director Martha Coolidge, the "making-of" spot "Inside the Fairy Tale," featurettes on the film's art-direction and lawnmower-racing sequence, seven deleted scenes and an alternate ending, a gag reel, and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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