The PrincessDiaries2 RoyalEngagement 2DiscSpecialEdition Studio:Disney Year:2004 RunTime:113 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 OAR (separate 4x3 encoded “full-screen” version available so beware!)Audio:5.1 DD English, French Subtitles:English, Spanish, FrenchSpecialFeatures:Feature Commentary, Royal Bloopers, Deleted Scenes, Breakaway Music Video, Making-of Featurette ReleaseDate:December 14, 2004 Feature... The content of the “feature” review is brought to you by my friend and avid Disney fan Rodney Elin… Quote: Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement I am always leery of movies with a "2" in their title, because it signifies that the movie is likely going to be a retread or repeat of a previously filmed plot and situation. While I can easily come up with several titles that prove my "2" theory wrong (Godfather II, Shrek 2) this movie does nothing to disabuse my preconceptions. The first Princess Diaries is definitely NOT required viewing before watching Princess Diaries 2. In the first act, the audience learns everything they need to know from the first movie to follow along with the characters and plot. Regardless, the film, directed by Gary Marshall is a typical, predictable, teen girl movie, standing right next to this year's Ella Enchanted and 13 going on 30. Anne Hathaway shares billing with Julie Andrews, and deservedly so. Even though she supposedly plays a minor role as the reigning queen of the fictional land of Genovia, Andrews' poise and screen presence captures every scene she is in. The plot is mundane and predictable as Hathaway is required to marry into royalty before she can ascend to the throne. This movie comes complete with a boorish, overbearing, English accented villain (John Rhys-Davies,) a half-witted, clumsy nephew as comic relief, (Erik Brag) and two rival prospective royal consorts (Chris Pine as Lord Nicholas Devereaux and Callum Blue as Andrew Jacoby, Duke of Kennilworth.) Gary Marshall did provide an unexpected twist to the otherwise predictable ending of the movie, but it seems tailor made so that Marshall can shoehorn an additional film into the franchise. Anne Hathaway as an actress is really starting to grow into her acting jobs with subtlety and poise. In 2001, she played Mia Thermopolis as a nerdy high school girl with a first timer's bravado and overreaching slapstick, and this outing she has refined her comic timing and comes across with a much more likable and inviting character under the tutelage of Queen Clarisse. Marshall relies on too many segments and directorial bits that worked for him once before, but do not deserve a repeat in this situation, there are the closets full of shoes, clothing, and sunglasses that appear to be lifted directly from "Pretty Woman" and the before and after photos held up to reveal the hairdo and look of Hathaway is lifted from the first "Princess Diaries" At least Marshall relies on his own shtick instead of someone else's Marshall also saves money by giving the audience absolutely no location shots. The entire movie, even the parade through the streets of Genovia, is filmed from a series of sound stages One thing that this reviewer can definitely say about this movie is, it really could have used more Julie Andrews. In this movie, Andrews gives her first on screen and her first public singing performance since she had throat surgery in 1998, a duet with teenage pop culture icon Raven Symone Despite it's predictability, tired plot, and lack of visual variety, Anne Hathaway carries the movie along with unflagging support from Julie Andrews. Together they create a reasonably enjoyable outing. Film Rating 2 / 5 ~Rodney Elin Thanks Rodney! Picture... The image of Princess Diaries 2 is lovely, but it suffers from the usual Disney processing of some moderate high-pass filtering (removing fine image detail) with a touch of EE to artificially boost sharpness. Every other studio has figured out by now how to avoid this unnecessary and image-degrading practice…waiting for Disney… In any event, the edge-ringing from the mild EE isn’t troublesome from a 1.6 screen-width distance on casual viewing, though the electronic emphasis does add a slightly harsh “digital” signature to the image that finer DVD productions lack. This is the only artifact that really keeps Princess Diaries 2 from garnering the coveted “film like” qualifier. Colors are simply gorgeous. Hues are well saturated (without blooming) and just a delight to behold. The floral arrangements and many lush outdoor shots are ablaze with reds, blues, oranges, and vivid greens. The image seems quite a bit improved in many respects over the first “Princess Diaries” film, but this has mostly to do with decisions in film-production like the choice of film-stock and less-so with DVD mastering per-se. The image is mostly grain-free (unlike the first film which utilized a somewhat grainer film stock) and contrast and black level are also superior…giving the image a more dynamic appearance. If you already have the original Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted, I’d venture to say that the look of Princess Diaries 2 resembles Ella Enchanted more closely than the first Princess film. Please bear in mind that these comments about “grain” and such are not meant as criticisms of the DVD of the first film…which was merely exhibiting the picture in accordance with the source film elements; I’m really comparing the look of the first film to the look of the sequel…and this DVD shows those differences admirably. I didn’t notice any distracting MPEG noise or color banding from my 1.6 screen-width seating distance. And given my only real complaint about the (typical…grrrr) high-frequency filtering and minor EE, the image is really quite beautiful and I’m sure that viewers watching from 2 screen widths away from their display or farther will find the image even more engaging. Aspect Ratio… Princess Diaries 2 is also properly presented in its precise 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the 16x9 frame…utilizing very minor letterboxing on the top/bottom of the image to preserve the OAR. Most viewers will never notice these letterboxing bars (only a few scan-lines in height) due to overscan, but it’s worth mentioning as this is an area where Disney deserves a bit of praise; some other studios routinely “crop” their 1.85:1 movies to 1.77:1 for 16x9 mastering shaving a bit off the left/right of the image but Disney preserves the full 1.85:1 image by way of letterboxing. Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5 Warning: Separate “Full-Screen” version available so beware! Don’t just grab the first disc off the shelf and be sure to give good instructions for those purchasing for a gift. Rating Rationale... In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later): Rating Key: SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (sans EE would garner a full “5”). Sound... The 5.1 English mix sounds very pleasing. There is not much in the way of bass response or surround activity but neither is there much cause for such sound effects in the film. This is a front-heavy mix but it sounded just fine and felt entirely appropriate. Dialogue is recorded with great clarity…so articulate that I actually thought to myself how unusually “good” the dialogue was conveyed. Musical scores are rendered pleasingly as well, and the sound has a very “open” and natural character that’s clear and crisp without sounding irritatingly bright. My only thought for improvement would have been to make more use of the surround channels for more pronounced ambient fill…but even as it is the audio presentation sounds just fine and suits the film and on-screen action nicely. Sound Quality: 4 / 5 Special Features... This single-disc presentation doesn’t merit an “SE” status but even so the special features presented are more than adequate and generally of good quality. [*]Feature Commentary: Actress Julie Andrews and Director Garry Marshall team up to provide a screen-specific commentary track that is entertaining, but not exactly riveting. To be honest, I preferred the commentary on the first film’s DVD where Julie Andrews pairs up with Anne Hathaway—their dialog was much more playful and evoked a more involving dynamic. While I’ll always take time to listen to Julie speak, and Garry Marshall’s demeanor is perfectly nice, their conversation just lacked the “spark” of the previous disc’s banter. Not a bad commentary…but not a great commentary either. [*]Deleted Scenes: There are quite a few (I think 8) and each has an introduction by Director Garry Marshall who explains the gist and purpose for being excised. All presented in 4x3 letterbox. Some of the deleted scenes were quite entertaining and I found myself despondent that some of them were not included in the feature film. Decent feature, but only watch them if you can stand to miss them not being in the actual film… [*]“Breakaway” Music Video: Kelly Clarkson performs this rather nice tune that is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Only downside is that it’s 4x3 letterbox…I just cannot understand why music-video production houses continue to produce “widescreen” music videos in 4x3 form? Are they still working on video production gear from the mid-80’s??? I’m not usually fond of these “music videos” and tend to view them as cheese-factor bonus features…but in this case the quality of the song and tasteful video impressed me. [*]Making A Return Engagement: A cute behind-the-scenes documentary hosted by Raven. Worth the watch and containing some interesting info about production, casting, and filming decisions. Give it a try. [/list] All Together... Not quite as good as the first “Princess Diaries” so many of us love, this sequel still has enough charm to coax a softy like me to spend 113 minutes in front of my 106 inch screen (just had to get that in here somewhere…hehe). Special features are more-than-adequate for a single-disc release such as this, and should more-than satisfy most fans and provide an interesting look for casual viewers alike. My only real complaint is the “typical Disney” lack of fine image detail and minor ringing from EE. Other than that, the image is lovely even on a wide-angle system. If you liked Princess Diaries 2, this DVD is an easy purchase. If you haven’t seen the film and are hesitant or think you only plan to watch it once, then consider it a great netflix choice the next time you’re trying to decide what to watch with the family… Enjoy!