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Thursday, April 1, 2004 03:04 am

Movie Review

The Prince & Me

A familiar story, told with charm

Martha Coolidge's The Prince & Me tells the story of an oh-so-common occurrence among college-aged girls: They go off to school, meet the man of their dreams, and he turns out to be the prince of a European nation. At least, that's how it happens in the movies.

Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles) is a young woman from the heartland, raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Paige plans to be a veterinarian, but also wants to see the world. The itinerary of her life is changed when she meets and falls for Prince Edvard "Eddie" Dangaard (Luke Mably), Denmark's heir to the throne. The prince has enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, hoping to find the kind of American girl popularized in Girls Gone Wild videos.

While the plot seems routine, Katherine Fugate's story contains subtleties and circumstances that ground it in reality, making it far more engaging. Paige is particularly strong and determined, and her initial aversion to Prince Eddie is entirely believable. Eddie proves to be something of a cad, but as he matures, he becomes more sympathetic, and we end up hoping Paige gives him another shot. And, of course, she does. Even then, the story takes an unexpected twist.

Strong support is given by veterans Miranda Richardson and James Fox as Eddie's royal parents, as well as Ben Miller as his acerbic valet. Stiles gives her usual strong performance, determined yet vulnerable to love, and Mably proves to be a pleasant surprise. His explanation of Shakespearean sonnets would make any girl leave the cows of Wisconsin behind in a heartbeat.

Though Prince goes down a well-traveled road, it's redeemed by Fugate's engaging and the undeniable chemistry between its two young leads.

What other critics are saying. . .

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London [PG] Frankie Muniz is secret agent Cody Banks on his second adventure. White Oaks

Dawn of the Dead [R] Flesh-eating zombies are after a nurse (Sarah Polley), a cop (Ving Rhames), and a few others who are holed up in a shopping mall. "While I'll definitely always prefer the original, the remake has earned its place in the dead series." (Joshua Tyler, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [R] After Joel (Jim Carrey) learns that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has the memories of their relationship erased, he decides to do the same. Though his memories gradually fade, he starts to remember how they first fell in love, and now he can't get her out of his mind. "A remarkable film that can coax a smile about making the same mistakes in love and then sneak up and quietly break your heart." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) Parkway Pointe Art

Hellboy [PG-13]A demon, rescued during infancy from the Nazis, becomes a defender against the forces of evil. "The sheer ingenuity and obvious joy del Toro puts into the major action sequences lifts the movie out of the mundane." (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Hidalgo [PG-13] The story of a Pony Express courier (Viggo Mortensen) who travels to Saudi Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous race for a massive contest prize. "Nothing kills my Viggo jones like a bad western set in the Arabian Desert.' (Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) ShowPlace West

Home on the Range [PG] When an eviction notice is posted on the Patch of Heaven dairy farm, the cows decide to raise money by collecting a bounty on a notorious yodeling cattle rustler."The movie seems to have more in common with a Looney Toons cartoon than your typical Disney animation." (Stefan Halley, ShowPlace East, ShowPlace West

Jersey Girl [PG-13] A music industry executive struggles to raise his young daughter on his own. "[Ben] Affleck finally scores a hit with a co-star who is nine years old." (Victoria Alexander, Parkway Pointe

The Ladykillers [R] A professor assembles a group of thieves for a casino heist. After they hole up in a sweet old woman's home, they find that she's the biggest threat to their plans. Stars Tom Hanks. "The Coens' remake of a comedy classic flounders amid extreme caricatures and stained humor. (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe

Never Die Alone [R] Turf war erupts after a drug kingpin returns home. "There's something refreshing about a pulp drama that turns on the notion that redemption is a sucker's fantasy." (Mark Holcomb, Village Voice) Parkway Pointe

The Passion of the Christ [R] Mel Gibson's version of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. "The sacrifice Gibson's Jesus makes is purely physical. The violence to which he is subjected is portrayed to the point of being gratuitous and manipulative." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times)ShowPlace East, Parkway Pointe

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed [PG] The gang must contend with a masked villain who unleashes scary monsters in an attempt to take over Coolsville. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Starsky & Hutch [PG-13]Two streetwise cops (Ben Stiller and Owens Wilson) bust criminals in their red-and-white Ford Torino with the help of police snitch called Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg). Based on the '70s TV series. "Finally, the out-of-the-closet Starsky and Hutch!" (Victoria Alexander, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Taking Lives [R] An FBI profiler (Angelina Jolie) is called in by French Canadian police to catch a serial killer who takes on the identity of each new victim. "Director D.J. Caruso (The Salton Sea) shows promise. But when's the last time Jolie starred in a really good movie?" (Susannah Gora, Premiere magazine) ShowPlace West

Walking Tall [PG-13] A former member of U.S. Army Special Forces (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) returns to his small Washington State home to revive his family's lumber business. The town's overrun with corruption; the ex-soldier fixes things with a two-by-four. "The new Walking Tall is essentially a lighter, cliff-note version of the original film." (Stefan Halley, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East


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