Princess Caraboo is an airy bit of historical fluff. Based on a true story, the romantic comedy about a Pacific island princess in 1817 England who may not be for real could be considered Merchant Ivory Lite. The great costumes and sets are more substantial than the plot and characters.
Princess Caraboo (Phoebe Cates) shows up in a country village unable to speak or write English, but slowly conveys a story of her kidnapping from a royal household and her swimming for safety from a pirate ship off the English coast. The Worralls (Jim Broadbent, Wendy Hughes) see the princess as a means to increase their wealth and prestige. Their problem is Gutch (Stephen Rea), a local reporter who is suspicious of the princess even as he finds himself falling in love.
Kevin Kline milks a supporting role as the Worrall’s Greek butler for all it’s worth, while John Lithgow is a standout in a featured turn as a skeptical academic.
Equally striking is the location shooting in Wales and western England, which brings the early 19th century to life. But the central story is cotton candy. Cates is charming but looks far too modern for the role.