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Princess Protection Program (A Video Review)

Updated: Apr 29, 2023


Starring Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Tom Verica, Jamie Chung, Nicholas Braun, Kevin G. Schmidt, Molly Hagan, Robert Adamson, Samantha Droke, Dale Dickey, Johnny Ray, Talia Rothenberg, Sully Diaz, Brian Tester, Ricardo Alvarez, Cristina Soler and Ramon Saldana.

Teleplay by Annie DeYoung.

Directed by Allison Liddi-Brown.

Distributed by Walt Disney Home Video. 89 minutes. Rated G.

As an adult male with no children, I don't really know this personally, but according to some young girls I know this is a big-time pairing – Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez are sort of like a Redford and Newman for the tween girls set.

Lovato (of Camp Rock and Sonny with a Chance) and Gomez (of Wizards of Waverly Place) are mouse house dignitaries – the heirs apparent to Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens – who were themselves following in the footsteps of the likes of Hilary Duff, Amanda Duff, Melissa Joan Hart and decades of previous teen princesses.

As you can tell by the cutesy alliterative title, this movie is ALL about princesses – from the real ones to the imagined to acting like a princess – both in good and bad contexts. In fact, the word "princess" must have been used here at least 100 times in several different contexts. However, realizing that words have more than one meaning is about as subtle and deep as this formulaic – but I have to admit somewhat enjoyable – confection gets.

How is this for a high concept? There is a special, super-secret multi-government agency that protects princesses from small countries which are in political turmoil by hiding them in plain sight. (Who knew there was much need for an agency like this? They seem to be mad busy hiding the teen monarchs, though!) In this particular case the princess of a small island nation called Costa Luna has to pretend to be a normal teenaged girl at a Louisiana high school when a neighboring country tries to stage a coup.

The political side of the film is simplistic, cartoonish and bears no resemblance to real life. It is just a very broad and padded hanger to put the story on.

This film – and most made-for-Disney Channel titles – are just a new-millennium takes on the goofy high-concept Disney comedies which used to get theatrical release in the 60s and 70s: such lightweight titles as The Love Bug, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Absent-Minded Professor, That Darn Cat!, The World's Greatest Athlete and Candleshoe.

The princess here is Rosalinda (Lovato), nicknamed Rosie when she "visits" the family of Major Mason (the always dependable character actor Tom Verica) and his tomboyish daughter Carter (Gomez). Major Mason covers up his part in the PPP by running a little bait business in suburban Louisiana. (Wow, that's some subtle cover!)

Thus begins a typical fish-out-of-water tale in which the royal heir must deal with small town life and teen angst.

Most of that angst comes from Carter – who despite the fact that she is adorable is tortured by the local popular girls (Jamie Chung and Samantha Droke) and ignored by the handsome athlete (Nicholas Braun) she has been crushing on since the first grade.

No big surprise that Carter hates the new girl right away – certain she will be a snooty "princess," Also not a shock, when they get to know each other, they eventually become BFFs. Then the two of them take on the mean girls in a fight for the American equivalent of royalty, the fight to become Homecoming queen.

It's all predictable and lighter than air, however Gomez and Lovato both have very likable (small) screen presence and terrific rapport when they work off of each other. (In an extra interview, it is explained they have been friends since they were little girls working together on the Barney the dinosaur show.)

The movie is pure formulaic fluff, but it's the kind of tasty feel-good fluff that will make it mandatory screening for young girls. Essentially, that's all the makers of Princess Protection Program ever wanted.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: June 24, 2009.


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