Fluffy, candy-colored and aimed directly at tweens — girls between the ages of 10 and 12 — this Cinderella fantasy transforms a geek into a princess, and teaches a few life lessons along the way. Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) lives in a converted San Francisco firehouse with her mother (Caroline Goodall), a free-spirited artist, and attends the tony Grove School courtesy of the recently deceased father she never knew — her parents separated before she was born. Shy and uncoordinated, with goofy glasses and a mop of unruly hair, Mia is ignored by the school's A-list students, including Josh Bryant (Erik Von Detten), the blond hunk on whom she has a major crush. But she has best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo) and Lily's cool brother Michael (Robert Schwartzman) for support, so what does she care about snotty cheerleaders like Lana (pop star Mandy Moore), Anna (Beth Anne Garrison) and Fontana (Bianca Lopez)? Shortly before Mia's 16th birthday, her paternal grandmother, Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews), comes to town, asks Mia to tea and drops a bombshell on the teenager's lap. Clarisse is the Queen of Genovia, a tiny European principality tucked between France and Spain. Mia's late father was the crown prince, and now Mia is the only heir to Genovia's crown. She's a real, live princess — at least, she will be after a makeover and a couple of weeks of Clarisse's strict lessons in walking, talking and behaving like royalty. The trouble is, the more Mia learns about being a princess, the less certain she is that it's the life for her. She likes the limo and the newfound popularity, but being hounded by the press is no fun, and the thought of assuming adult responsibilities when she isn't old enough to have a driver's license is daunting. Plus, the princess lessons drives a wedge between Mia and Lily, who lives for social activism and makes it clear that she thinks the princess gig is a royal waste of time. Naturally, everything works itself out by the end, and Mia learns that friends and principles are more important than tiaras — though tiaras are pretty cool. Andrews is delightful as the imperious Clarisse, whose posture could shame a T-square, and Hathaway and Matarazzo are a refreshing change of pace: They actually look like ordinary high school students, rather than impossibly buffed and polished teen tarts.
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