Ron Batzdorff, Buena Vista Pictures
Nicholas (Chris Pine) proves an unlikely suitor for Princess Mia (Anne Hathaway) in "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement."

Director Gary Marshall has a penchant for stretching even the thinnest of material to ridiculous extremes, and turning what should be a short diversion into something of nearly epic proportions.

He did that with the first "Princess Diaries" film, which was pleasant enough but much longer than it needed to be. (In fact, at nearly two hours the film wore out its welcome.)

And he's done so again with the much-sketchier, considerably more silly sequel to the 2001 sleeper hit, "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement." There's perhaps 60 or 70 minutes' worth of material here at best.

However, that hasn't stopped Marshall and the screenwriters from padding it out with nonsensical, often painfully unfunny attempts at humor (mostly physical shtick).

The film also attempts to coast on the charms of its star, Anne Hathaway. She reprises her role as Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia. Now 21, she's ready to ascend her country's throne and take the place of her grandmother, Queen Clarice Renaldi (Julie Andrews).

However, at least one member of the country's parliament, the conniving Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies) is dead set against that. Instead, he wants to see his nephew, Sir Nicholas (Chris Pine), crowned king.

So in order to keep — or at least win — her crown, Mia must be married in a month. Reluctantly, she agrees to an arranged marriage with an English duke (Callum Blue). But to her surprise, she finds she actually has chemistry with Nicholas.

Again, the filmmakers have really padded this out. And frankly, the more interesting subplot concerns the guarded romance between the outgoing queen and her longtime protector (Hector Elizondo, a regular of Marshall's films).

Still, it's hard to come down completely on a film that features Andrews, even if this one does botch her big musical number (she has to share the spotlight with the irksome Raven, who adds some hip-hop flavor to their song, "Your Crowning Glory").

As for Hathaway, she's more confident and less self-conscious than she was in the first film. Unfortunately, her character is even more one-note this time around.

"The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" is rated G but does contain some slapstick violence (pratfalls and some shenanigans with a bow and arrow), as well as some mildly vulgar potty humor. Running time: 120 minutes.


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