SPOILERS MIGHT BE MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE! But DO watch PPP because I’ve seen it, it’s cute!
By Aaron Wallace
To say anything good about Princess Protection Program, I have to say a lot of bad things first. Likewise, to find anything enjoyable in the movie, you’ll have to sit through some pretty unwatchable sequences at the beginning. Of course, to have any idea what I’m talking about, you’ll also need me to answer your first question: “Princess what?”
Princess Protection Program is the new Disney Channel Original Movie starring Demi Lovato of Camp Rock fame and Selena Gomez from “Wizards of Waverly Place”. In other words, this is the network’s first chance to put their two fastest-rising stars together in something that fans of the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana will gobble up with super tween speed. That they were able to include royalty in that mix, reminding everyone of the success Disney’s had with The Princess Diaries and a whole slew of crown-sporting animated heroines, only ups the profit potential and resulting need to get this movie out to its young public as soon as possible.
Perhaps that urgency of production explains the utterly nonsensical premise established in the movie’s opening. Lovato plays Costa Lunan princess Rosalinda Maria Montoya Fioré (four names, how royal!), who is just about to become queen when a sword is literally thrown at her face during the middle of the rehearsal crowning ceremony.
The blade-wielding marksman is quickly revealed to be Magnus Kane (Johnny Ray Rodriguez), a uniformed general who stealthily pulled off his attack from the center of a large and rather empty room directly in front of the throne. Apparently, the laws in the tiny nation of Costa Luna dictate that anyone apt enough to pull off such a task instantly becomes the new leader. Without a moment’s hesitation or even the feeblest attempt at explaining the transfer of political power, General Kane assumes command and Princess Rosalinda’s staff seizes her, along with the Queen Mother, and holds them prisoner.
Fortunately, the royal families of the world have collectively foreseen just such a mutiny and established the privately-funded Princess Protection Program. This top-secret, high-tech organization is dedicated to ensuring the safety of threatened princesses all around the globe — not princes, not kings or queens, not the offspring of rulers in non-monarchies, and not any other heir to the throne. There’s only so much royal dough to spread around, it seems, and only princesses are worth spending it on. It’s a good thing Princess Rosalinda’s ceremony got hijacked before the Queen’s crown was set upon her head or she’d be SOL.
Among the Princess Protection Program’s many hidden agents is Joe Mason (Tom Verica), an officer posing as a bait shop owner. Major Mason is called upon to take Princess Rosalinda into hiding, which means bringing her home to Louisiana to room with his daughter, Carter (Gomez). You’ll be shocked to learn that they don’t get along at first but thanks to the trials and tribulations of high school, that begins to change.
As it turns out, this movie is really about the budding friendship between two girls and their joint overcoming of clique-fueled teenage drama. That story has been told many times before so a new perspective would be nice, but the poorly laid out government overthrow angle was the wrong way to do that. This TV movie simply doesn’t have the time or the budget to tell that kind of story. As a result, every scene turning its attention to that backdrop feels excruciatingly artificial. Also not helping is the fact that the major plot twist hinges on an improbably well-stocked school library. The other scenes, which comprise the majority of the movie, are far less ambitious but also much less offensive.
Selena Gomez is a very funny young girl and her trendy comedic sensibilities are this movie’s saving grace. Also scoring a few laughs is the antagonist, homecoming queen front-runner Chelsea (Jamie Chung, previously seen as part of MTV’s “The Real World: San Diego” cast). There’s nothing new or remarkable about the progression of Carter and Rosalinda’s friendship or the classmates they face off against, but the air of levity surrounding Gomez’s leading character does keep her head barely above water. All of the other performances, including Lovato’s, are average at best and sometimes worse.
Princess Protection Program will make its world debut on The Disney Channel this Friday, June 26. Just four days later, the movie comes to DVD, labeled as the Royal B.F.F. Extended Edition. I reviewed the extended cut prior to the screening of the televised version. Just how extended is the DVD? I suspect not very but I’ll just have to tune in on Friday along with everyone else to find out! (Oh darn, I’m busy that night… and so is my TiVo.)
VIDEO and AUDIO
The video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This appears to be an entirely appropriate presentation. Disney Channel Original Movies have long been framed for both fullscreen and widescreen ratios, with only the latter seeing the light of day in the US (at least until the rare Disney Channel Blu-ray release comes along). Kudos to Disney for getting with the times and finally issuing the generally preferable and HDTV-friendly widescreen presentation to DVD. That said, if Friday’s telecast presents the movie in fullscreen, then the DVD should have preserved that as an alternative for those who prefer original broadcast aspect ratios.
Picture quality yields little complaint. Princess Protection Program looks better than a lot of Disney Channel Original Movies have and while the picture is sometimes too soft, it actually is pretty solid overall. The transfer to DVD provides no apparent reason for complaint.
Audio comes by way of a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. During the loudest scenes, you might hear something from the rear channels if you hug the speaker to your ear and strain. Otherwise, you’ll be getting your sound from the front three channels. That’s fine, though, as the sound quality is consistently satisfactory and further channel separation would probably betray the movie’s stereo presentation on TV.
French and Spanish subtitles and audio tracks are also made available. When the disc is inserted, you’ll be asked to select your language before Disney’s FastPlay commences.
BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING
The disc includes a small handful of bonus features, divided into two headings. Backstage Disney contains two featurettes. The first is “Royal & Loyal BFFs” (7:36), a behind-the-scenes fluff piece focused exclusively on one fact: Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato are best friends. Don’t blink lest you miss the fleeting Joe Jonas cameo!
Next is “A Royal Reality” (5:00). This piece looks at real-life royalty: Princess India Oxenberg. The featurette is stingy with the details of the teenager’s lineage, but we are told that she descends from the famous Anastasia and is related to Prince Charles. (Not mentioned: her mom is “Dynasty” actress Catherine Oxenberg and her stepdad is Starship Troopers’ Casper Van Dien.) The princess sits down to talk rather candidly about the trappings of her royal life or, as seems to be largely the case, the lack thereof. While the interwoven interviews with the stars of Princess Protection Program are wholly irrelevant, the conversation with the real princess is actually quite interesting. It’s a shame that more time wasn’t devoted to this.
Finally, under Music & More is the music video for “One and the Same” (3:04). The duet between Gomez and Lovato is instantly forgettable, as is its poorly lip-synched music video. At least it’s in widescreen!
The 16×9 main menu is attractively designed, with cut-out images of the characters rotating as “One and the Same” plays. The disc is housed inside a standard black keepcase. For a limited time, that is supposed to be packaged in some kind of box with matching “Royal B.F.F.” necklaces. My review copy carried no such add-on, though, leaving me and my B.F.F. royally disappointed. A booklet of ads, a Disney Blu-ray flyer, and a Disney Movie Rewards code (currently worth 100 points and a “Never B4 Seen” performance of Camp Rock’s “Play My Music”) are inside.
The Sneak Peeks on the disc are as follows: Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Princess and the Frog, Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Blu-ray: Magic in High-Def, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Race to Witch Mountain, “Sonny with a Chance”, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Earth, and a Double Feature DVD of Hatching Pete and Dadnapped. The disc also frustratingly features Disney’s FastPlay.
I haven’t seen every Disney Channel Original Movie, but I’ve seen quite a few and even written favorable reviews for a number of them. I’ve racked my brain and I can’t think of one that I liked less than Princess Protection Program. Even at its best, the movie rises no higher than average, failing to distinguish itself from many other DCOMs with anything other than a very popular pairing of leads. At its worst, this tween-targeting flick is distractingly absurd. Within the next few days, you’ll be presented with two different ways to see this movie. One of them is free, the other goes for a list price of $29.99. If you want to see this for the few laughs that Selena Gomez offers, I won’t judge you — just plan now and save your money.
Source: Ultimate Disney