Those of us who've fretted for years over Julie Andrews being dumped for Audrey Hepburn for the screen version of "My Fair Lady" can finally calm down — sort of. The estimable Andrews, still straight of spine and perfect of pitch (though, sadly, a tad raspy since recovering from throat surgery), gets revenge of sorts by playing Henry Higgins to young Anne Hathaway's Eliza in "The Princess Diaries," Garry Marshall's bumpy but endearing girls' fairy tale.
Based on Meg Cabot's "Bridget Jones's Diary"-style novel for teens, "Diaries" presents Mia Thermopolis, a shy San Francisco teen whose life is turned upside down when her royal grandma (Andrews) suddenly announces that Mia is heir to the throne of Genovia. This news is, as Mia says, "bigger than orthodonture" and kicks off a whirlwind of "princess lessons" in which she learns to sit straight, eat politely, read Virginia Woolf, and, ultimately, believe in herself.
All this sounds a bit dreary, and Marshall — who made countless teens yearn to be hookers with "Pretty Woman" — hardly seems the type to pull it off. And I could have done without Mia's teen-queen makeover, which made her look alarmingly like a junior Julia Roberts. But Andrews tucks the film into her carpet bag and walks away with it. Whether trilling "Goodbye, trolley people!" to a gaggle of cable-car riders, or dancing a marvelously subtle tango with Hector Elizondo, she's pure screen royalty.
Moira Macdonald can be reached at 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org.