The good intentions of "Her Majesty" should be the film's saving grace. Here's a movie that's filled with messages about tolerating if not embracing other cultures.
But this 4-year-old import from New Zealand still manages to disappoint. And attempts by the distribution company to compare this '50s-period drama to another New Zealand film, "Whale Rider," only serve to remind us of how good that film is.
Newcomer Sally Andrews plays Elizabeth Wakefield, a 13-year-old New Zealand schoolgirl who's obsessed with Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, she's written the English monarch dozens of letters, hoping to persuade to visit her town. And as fate would have it, news comes that the queen is coming to New Zealand on a royal tour.
Not everyone is thrilled by the news, however; Hira Mata (Vicky Haughton), an old Maori woman feared and scorned by the other townspeople, seems genuinely upset. And that has put a bit of a strain on her burgeoning friendship with Elizabeth.
Screenwriter/director Mark J. Gordon has overplotted the film. There are subplots about Elizabeth's mischievous older brother (Craig Elliott) and her father (Mark Clare), who wants the queen to visit his cheese factory. But little of it works, and there are many pointless digressions including Elizabeth's crush on one of her instructors (Cameron Smith), which culminates in a bizarre fantasy musical number.
Where "Whale Rider" was subtle and sly, "Her Majesty" is heavy-handed and patronizing. Its amateurish elements often betray the relatively low budget, and there's also a serious lack of energy.
Then there's the painfully self-conscious performance given by Andrews, who has that deer-in-the-headlights look throughout the movie. Though to be fair, the aforementioned musical number does prove that she has some real talent. And besides, hers is not the only lackluster performance. Haughton and, especially, Elliott are one-note at best.
"Her Majesty" is rated PG for use of some mild profanity, crude slang terms and racial epithets, as well as some brief violence (vehicular, as well as an act of vandalism). Running time: 105 minutes.
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