The old “Roman Holiday” premise gets yet another run-through in “The Prince & Me,” a bland, not particularly heartfelt romantic fantasy about a Danish prince who decides to live among the common folk for a while. Totally cliched and nearly two hours long, pic takes forever to get to hopelessly obvious places — which even the supposedly indiscriminate teen girl target audience is likely to detect. Despite some (but not enough) charming moments along the way, this “Prince” doesn’t look to hold court in cinemas for very long before taking up residence on cable and home video.
Written by Jack Amiel, Michael Begler and Katherine Fugate (the first two of whom hail from TV sitcom writing) and based on a story co-written by Mark Amin and Fugate, pic opens in Denmark. Twentysomething Prince Edvard (Luke Mably) is next in line to succeed to the throne of the world’s longest continuous monarchy (the only one, we’re told, that still demands the king’s active participation in the rule of government), but Edvard’s interests lie elsewhere.
Edvard has a penchant for drag-racing his suped-up BMW through the streets of Copenhagen (though his opponents always let him win) and for fantasizing about the loose American college girls he sees on a “Girls Gone Wild”-style TV program. Meanwhile, back on the farm, Midwestern coed Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles) prepares for another year as a pre-med student at the U. of Wisconsin, keenly aware that she’s the only one of her circle who’s not married or engaged.
Hoping for some time off from his princely responsibilities, Edvard asks his parents, the King (James Fox) and Queen (Miranda Richardson), for time off to “study” in America. They agree, provided Edvard’s personal secretary, Soren (Ben Miller), accompanies him. Naturally, they choose Wisconsin as a destination, and it’s only a matter of time before Edvard (now calling himself “Eddie”) and Paige (the “Me” of pic’s title) meet-cute in the campus watering hole where she works part-time as a barmaid. (Curiously, for a PG-rated pic, “The Prince & Me” shows little reserve in depicting barely drinking-age college students consuming alcohol.)
Eddie carefully unbuttons his shirt collar before strutting over to Paige. She takes one listen to his lewd pass, tells him off with her mahogany voice, raising those carefully arched eyebrows of hers, and has him promptly thrown out of the bar.
But, they end up chemistry lab partners, and soon discover there’s more chemistry between them than just the classroom variety. He tutors her on Shakespeare, she teaches him how to do his own laundry, etc., all building up to those inevitable moments where Eddie’s true identity is revealed, Paige acts betrayed, and then they kiss and make up.
Predictability of the material is a shame, as director Martha Coolidge can be an inspired, lyrical filmmaker, with a warm feeling toward people, given the right material (“Rambling Rose,” “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”). Here, however, her talent shows through in just one scene when Paige takes Eddie home to meet her parents, an interlude shot on a real working dairy farm.
Beyond that, “The Prince & Me” seems to be on autopilot, only finally springing to some life in its very final moments, when Paige travels back to Denmark with Eddie/Edvard. Paige is torn between her med-school dream and the fairytale possibility of becoming princess of Denmark. That conflict holds some interest in an age when the political agenda dictates that young women not be forced into making choices between a career and domesticity.
Stiles, who’s had a run of good parts in a diverse range of mainstream and indie pictures, is irrepressibly engaging, and she looks downright radiant in the series of elaborate gowns she gets to wear in pic’s third act. Her role, however, is of the undemanding sort more commonly tailored to the likes of Hillary Duff or Amanda Bynes, and therefore a strange career choice for Stiles.
Mably is asked to do little other than look suitably princely, but Miller has some scene-stealing moments in a role that occasionally recalls those memorably put-upon sidekicks played by Arsenio Hall in “Coming to America” and John Gielgud in “Arthur.”
Tech achievements for this runaway production (filmed in Toronto and Prague) are as by-the-numbers as pic itself, with Alex Nepomniaschy’s flat, TV-style lensing a far cry from his edgy work on Joe Carnahan’s “Narc.”