DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Princess Diaries SE

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Aug 2, 2004.

  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Feb 24, 1999
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    Studio:DISNEY Year:2001 RunTime:115 minutesAspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 OAR Audio:5.1 DD English, 5.1 DD French, 2.0 DD Spanish Subtitles:English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, French SpecialFeatures:Two feature audio commentaries, 8 deleted scenes, making-of featurette, music videos, preview for Princess Diaries 2, DVD-ROM content...ReleaseDate:August 3, 2004

    The Feature...

    A truly charming movie. The Princess Diaries may be a bit saccharinely-sweet on the surface, but it's got heart to hold it together. At its core The Princess Diaries is the Pygmalion story of a young woman's transformation. Anne Hathoway plays the character of Mia Thermopolis, who is an unassuming San Francisco teenager who discovers to her great surprise one day that she is royalty. That moment of awakening also commences her into a world of cultural training and instruction to turn her into the "princess" she is destined to become. The ever-regal Julie Andrews plays Mia's grandmother and possesses all the natural grace and elegance befitting a true queen. The Princess Diaries is worth watching if merely to enjoy Julie Andrew's perfectly-cast performance in this film.

    The Princess Diaries isn't perfect, and at times weakens momentarily to appeal to younger audiences, but never betrays the serious viewer. The story and character performances are touching and place this movie a cut above the usual "entertainment" fare.

    Disc Presentation...

    With the sequel to appear in theaters soon, Disney seems to be trying to capitalize marketing momentum in both directions...using the interest in the new film to drive DVD sales of the first film and sales of this DVD to help push awareness of the new theatrical debut. A few years ago The Princess Diaries was released on DVD in separate Full-Frame and Widescreen editions, and this new two-disc SE contains both aspect ratio options: Disc one holds the Full-Frame MAR version, and Disc 2 holds the Widescreen OAR version. Be aware of this...just like Shrek I think lots of HT folks will just reach blindly for the first disc and then start cursing that they got stuck with a P/S purchase...OAR is on Disc Two (can I complain about that? Disney, I applaud you providing both aspect ratio options in a single-edition purchase, but it would be so much nicer if you put the *real* version, the widescreen version, on Disc One and leave the modified Full-Frame for Disc Two). Special feature content is spread across both discs, and all of the solid bonus material is ported over from the previous DVD editions (feature commentary, deleted scenes etc.) with a few new (fluffy) bonus features added to the mix. This "Special Edition" really wouldn't represent an upgrade for someone who already has the previous DVD edition, but given that it's priced lower than the previous edition on most e-tailers that I've checked, it's an easy choice for someone who's been waiting to add this title to their collection.


    A generally very good picture, and one that is more or less identical to that of the previous DVD edition. Colors are pure and natural, detail is above-average for a Disney DVD (most DVDs from Disney seem to suffer from the effects of pre-compression HF filtering more than some of the other big-name studios these days), and contrast and black level are strong and appear faithful to the source elements. There is a bit of film-grain apparent in some shots from time to time but this is not an artifact to be criticized...the DVD is merely duplicating the film source information. Compression artifacting is minimal, though at times I noticed a "crawlie" effect in slow pans or motion that I suspect may be a bit of DNR artifacting (ironically, Digital Noise Reduction tends to add more noise than it ameliorates, in my opinion) but it's not severe and easily overlooked even on my 100" projected image. I just moved into a new apartment and the sofa is approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance away from the screen, which is about as close as I can comfortably watch DVD source material and avoid apparent pixel structure from the BenQ 8700+ DLP projector. Obviously, watching DVDs at this wide viewing angle reveals a subtlety of detail and artifacting that might be much less visible...or even invisible...on display systems viewed from a narrower viewing angle; and if I move back to about two screen widths the subtle (DNR?) artifacting vanishes entirely and leaves a beautiful and coherent picture in its place.

    I don't mean to sound like Mr. Broken-record Disney DVD reviewer...but yes there is a bit of edge enhancement on this disc. It's not terribly distracting even from my 1.6 screen-width viewing distance. However, at times edge-halos do appear (around Mia's glasses when she's out in the garden after first meeting her grandmother) much to my chagrin and more significantly, the slight HF boost adds a feel of artificiality to the picture...a kind of mild digital harshness that robs the image of its natural and easy film-like character. Again, these are subtle impressions that communicate on a large-screen system, and viewers with smaller sets or who view from a greater relative distance probably won't see these anomalies in quite the same way.

    Well having said all that I do want to balance out my criticisms by saying that my overall impression of the image is quite good and very satisfying. Had the living room not been an utter state of chaos from my recent move, this DVD review would have been an easy choice for a very rewarding movie-party experience.

    Picture: 4/ 5


    Audio sounds clear and spreads nicely across the front soundstage (the score primarily) and is satisfyingly full, but a 5.1 surround-sound demo disc The Princess Diaries is not. But what were you expecting? The audio on this disc sounds perfectly fine and does exactly what it needs to without underselling or drawing attention to itself in any distracting manner. Audio tracks can be toggled on-the-fly with the disc in play which includes the additional 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish, and two feature-commentary tracks on the widescreen version. Wow is that all he's really going to type? Just trying to shake things up a little bit around here lately...

    Sound: 4/ 5

    Special Features...

    Most of the SE content is ported over from the previous DVD edition, so if you've already purchased that version don't get all depressed and wonder if you should sell your old copy on ebay to make room for this new one. The new features exclusive to this two-disc SE are not very substantive in my opinion and do NOT constitute a compelling case to "upgrade". New bonus material is clearly demarked below to make it easy to see:

    [*]Feature Commentary (Disc 2): There are two screen-specific feature commentary tracks on the widescreen/OAR disc: One is by Director Garry Marshall and the other is with our beloved Julie Andres and Anne Hathoway (the two lead actresses in the film). Both feature commentaries are amusing, but despite the occasional item of interest and his warm personal style, I wasn't very enamored with Marshall's discussion. However, this boy was all about Julie and Anne. Their rapport is natural and warm-hearted, and while they spend much time amusing themselves with personal stories and anecdotal tidbits, there was also a bit of film-making content in there to legitimize it as a boni-fide "commentary". But I didn't even need to learn anything about the movie per-se, I just wanted to listen to Julie Andrews talk candidly and in a relaxed manner about her experiences, and that's what I got. Anne also has quite a bit to contribute herself, and probably spends more time speaking, but the flow between them is comfortable and well-balanced. The fact that they were having an English high-tea while recording the commentary was an absolute hoot. Now I have to search down that brand of Tea of which Ms. Andrews is so fond...
    [*]Deleted Scenes (Disc 1): A total of 8 deleted scenes, prsented in 4x3 lbx with very nice introductions by Director Garry Marshall.
    [*]A New Princess (Disc 1): A nice 25 minute behind-the-scenes featurette that details many aspects of actor choices, some fun behind-the-scenes trivia, and the occasional movie-making mystery tip. The coolest thing was when for Marshall's birthday the cast and crew surprised him with a cake and Whitney Houston (the producer) and Julie Andrews sang him happy birthday. What a memory to call your own. This feature is well-done, holds interest, and has repeat-watching potential as long as your viewing intervals are properly spaced.
    [*]Music Videos (Disc 1): Your typical teenage girl-band style Disney Music Video fare. The Two videos are "Miracles Happen" and "Supergirl". Actually, the two songs and accompanying videos weren't that bad, and I watched "Supergirl" with guilty pleasure. But what did bother me was the aberrant video quality of both videos (full of NTSC noise and digital artifacting) and the lame 2.0 DD audio. Either give us 2.0 PCM or provide us with a decent 5.1 DD soundtrack with a high-enough bit-rate to sound musical.
    [*]Bloopers (Disc 2): NEW A fun 5 minute gag and blooper reel compiled together in "feature" fashion and set to music. Cute, but not life-changing.
    [*]Livin' Like A Princess (Disc 2): NEW A paper-doll-esque animated short talking in general terms about "princesses", their history, and their lives. It ends in a "rap" and I'm embarrassed to say I enjoyed it.
    [*]Princess Diaries 2 Preview (Disc 2): NEW A short advertisement for the new film manifested as a "video diary" with Anne and Julie. I actually enjoyed watching it...and was relieved to find that it wasn't just a "trailer" but something a little more fun and personable.
    [*]DVD-ROM (Disc 2): NEW An assortment of DVD-ROM features like Screen-savers, photo gallery, etc.

    All Together...

    If you liked movies like Pretty Woman (also Directed by Garry Marshall) or Miss Congeniality, then you really owe it to yourself to give The Princess Diaries a try. Fans of the film who already own the current widescreen DVD edition really won't have a reason to "upgrade" to this new SE version which duplicates all the more substantive extras from that first DVD edition with the addition of just a few more nice-but-don't-have-to-have-em bonus features. But for those of you who managed to let the opportunity to buy the first DVD pass you buy, I encourage you whole-heartedly to add this new SE to your collection. The Princess Diaries is a charming film that deserves your consideration.

  2. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
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    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    Nice review David. I own the first disc edition and would upgrade only if the video part was improved. So it looks like I won't double dip here. And that's a good thing since I have been double dipping a great deal lately. [​IMG]
  3. DavidBL

    DavidBL Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 19, 2002
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    Thanks for the review. This is a fave of the wife and daughters so I'm glad I don't have to upgrade from my WS original version.
  4. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter

    Mar 10, 2004
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    David, thanks for the great review. I was anxious to see if there was really anything worthwhile to upgrade for and it seems I will be fine with my previous widescreen edition. The Julie Andrews commentary was alot of fun, so I don't see any reason to upgrade. Had they actually done some important featurettes or new interviews with her, I'd be more likely to get the new edition. Too bad they don't release a special edition right away. But I suppose that's marketing.
  5. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

    Mar 14, 2001
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    Thanks for the info. I too would only upgrade for a better picture or new deleted scenes, so I'll pass on upgrading this.
  6. Daniel`D

    Daniel`D Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 8, 2003
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    I'll upgrade only because the other version was my first dvd and I got it in full screen[​IMG]
  7. SarahG

    SarahG Second Unit

    Jun 6, 2003
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    I'll upgrade because I have interest in this and I am excited about the fact that you get a free ticket to see the second movie - which i will be seeing next weekend!

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