Romantic comedies, as Hugh Grant knows, rarely receive awards, much less rave reviews from critics. The basic premise of rom-coms is that a tale told once can be recycled again and again – if all the ingredients of the formula are in place, the mass market of romantic sentimentalists (teenage girls and others) are satisfied. Rom-coms are not intellectual statements, nor are they groundbreaking works of art. Treated on their own terms, they are at best endearing tear-jerkers – at worst they become cliche-ridden blancmanges. Somewhere between the two sits The Prince & Me.
Vaguely topical following the wedding of the real-life prince of Denmark to his Australian love earlier this year, The Prince & Me is one of several films being released along the theme of royal-marries-commoner. Here, for our lead characters we meet Paige Morgan, a dairy farmer’s girl from Wisconsin serious about her studies in biochemistry (Julia Stiles), and a drop-dead gorgeous prince from Denmark, Edvard (Luke Mably), who decides to up sticks from paparazzi-strewn Copenhagen for the simpler pleasures of incognito university life in the United States – albeit with his valet Soren reluctantly following in his wake. The charming prince expects not only to escape hounding tabloid photographers (in the USA?! Yes, dear…), but to find girls who take their tops off for camera after he saw a video depicting such frivolity at the palace. Instead, he meets Paige, asks her to take her top off and gets a spraying from the bar for his trouble.
The rest comes as no surprise. Although the two start out on the wrong foot – Edvard’s arrogance does not work well with Paige, his tutor or roommates – they predictably fall in love when the playboy prince is forced to take a bar job to help pay for his time at university. Predictably, Paige discovers his true identity; there are predictable recriminations and ruminations, and then we all decamp back to Denmark to meet the predictable parents. Quite predicatble, really.
Edward Fox and Miranda Richardson are both superb at fleshing out their caricature king and queen characters with sensibility and compassion, and both add much to the storyline in consequence. Ben Miller as Soran the valet gets some of the script’s choicest lines and delivers them as deadpan as Jack Dee. Julia Stiles manages to overcome cumbersomely scripted lines in her early scenes to win over the audience, while Luke Mably (last on the big screen in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later but previously of the Holby City cast) seems to personify every teenage girl’s fantasy about Prince William – the accent is much the same, whether Edvard is from Denmark or not. Formula 1 afficionadoes will note with interest ex-Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine’s feature film debut as himself, and there’s a delightfully knowing nod to F1 folklore as he races the prince through Denmark’s country lanes.
Despite a lumpy, contrived script with some truly daft twists and turns (none more so than Edvard’s premise for heading Stateside), there’s enough romance and escapism, backed up by solid performances, to make this film just about work for girls of a certain age and die-hard romantics. My cinema companion, a lady some way from her teenage years, fell asleep during the first half, but was delighted to wake up during one of Mably’s shirtless moments. Oggling aside, if one overcomes the predictability and immerses one’s self in sentimental, slushy romance, seeing The Prince & Me won’t be quite as bad an experience as you’d think.