Julia Stiles can't seem to get away from Shakespeare, which makes her Prince & Me character's aversion to the Bard feel like an inside joke. Stiles made her breakthrough with 10 Things I Hate About You, a teen-friendly update of The Taming Of The Shrew, then played Ophelia to Ethan Hawke's slacker prince in Hamlet, as well as the Desdemona character in O, Tim Blake Nelson's controversial update of Othello. Now, Stiles romances a less melancholy but still conflicted Danish prince in The Prince & Me.
Luke Mably plays that Shakespeare-quoting prince, a dreamy tabloid fixture who foregoes Monaco and southern France for that den of vice known as Wisconsin after he watches a commercial for a Girls Gone Wild!-like tape set in America's Dairyland and mistakes it for a sociological study. Of course, if a guy is looking for tawdry affairs, being a prince couldn't hurt, but Mably still sees fit to hide his royal origins when he falls in love with Stiles, a self-professed farm girl whose life, like Mably's, is dominated by preparation for a future rife with responsibility.
Few actresses exude restless intelligence as effortlessly as Stiles, which is fortunate, since Martha Coolidge's film relies on that forceful charisma to make it past awful dialogue, contrived situations, and hokey use of Disney-style butterflies. Though The Prince & Me is clearly Stiles' movie, Mably makes an appealing leading man once his character's jerkiness subsides, and Ben Miller lends droll comic support as a long-suffering royal servant who acclimates himself a little too fully into the lifestyle of a dorm-rat.
Complications ensue as Stiles struggles to find a balance between pursuing her calling and meeting the demands placed on the partner of a monarch in waiting. The film, perhaps inevitably, cops out on dealing with them fully, but it's refreshing to watch its assertion that being a princess is no substitute for being a woman in control of her own destiny.