The Prince and Me

OK, listen up. “The Prince & Me” goes wrong in a number of ways, so we need to get right to it or we’ll never finish.

First, Julia Stiles is dour and humorless. She strikes me as a 45-year-old woman stuck in the body of a 23-year-old. This suits her well enough when she is cast in serious films, as in “Hamlet,” “O” and the little-seen “Business of Strangers.” It is disastrous, however, when she appears in lighter work, especially something as frothy as “The Prince & Me.”

Every time her character, a pre-med student named Paige Morgan, laughs or smiles, it strikes me as phony, like both the actress and the character are trying unsuccessfully to convince us that they’re not uptight sticks-in-the-mud.

But a greater problem with the film, directed by Martha Coolidge (“Out to Sea,” “Lost in Yonkers”) is that it is really two movies in one, and both are sub-par.

It is first a standard romantic comedy, following all the rules: Two people meet and initially clash but grow to like each other, just in time for one to learn that the other has been lying about something. They break up because of it, followed by a montage of missing each other, followed by a reunion that occurs in a public place.

After all that happens, “The Prince & Me” becomes the kind of movie where an average person is suddenly thrust into royalty and/or fame and/or wealth. How does she adjust? Can she do it, or is she just not cut out for that sort of thing? And so on.

Oy vey. Such mediocrity, I don’t need. Paige meets Eddie (Luke Mably), a new student from Denmark who is actually the crown prince and heir to the throne of that country. He has come to Wisconsin to get away from his fusty old parents (you know how monarchs are…), and also to get out of the limelight for a while. He hides his princehood from everyone, but he’s accompanied by his valet, Soren (Ben Miller), who I guess is just supposed to pass himself off as another student, one who’s 37 years old and who waits on his roommate hand and foot.

Anyway, Paige is a bee-yotch to Eddie even before he gets drunk and starts hitting on her. This is because she’s pretty much a bee-yotch to everyone, a trait that changes later on, which is another fault of the film — but I am getting ahead of myself.

Eddie manages to charm her a bit, and she starts to melt, and she takes him home to the farm for Thanksgiving. There he enters a lawnmower race with Paige’s brothers, in a sequence that should have been the first thing cut when someone realized this movie was too long (which is another of its faults, but I don’t need to elaborate on that point).

Eventually, the truth comes out about Eddie’s royal heritage, and Paige feels betrayed at having been deceived. They break up, and Eddie heads back to Denmark, where the king is ailing. Once Paige gets over her issues, she heads for Denmark — I do like that the film shows her pooling her friends’ credit cards to pay for the trip, because I always wonder how movie characters can afford to fly on a moment’s notice — and reunites with the prince.

Then the second film begins, as they are engaged to be married, which means she is engaged to be the next queen. The standard scenes of Paige wearing uncomfortable dresses and attending boring state dinners are delivered. Second thoughts are had, and decisions are reached.

What this means is that you, the viewer, must endure not one but TWO breakups and reunions, and if you write me to say I’ve spoiled the plot for you by indicating that there are, in fact, two reunions, then I will be forced to conclude that you have never seen a movie before. Even a novice moviegoer knows exactly what will happen in a film as safe and uncomplicated as this one; they might as well hand out copies of the script as you enter the theater so you can follow along.

Lastly, we must deal with the characters of Paige and Eddie. Why must we deal with them? Because someone must, and the actors chose not to. Their personalities change randomly to suit the needs of the pieced-together script (written by four people whose names you don’t need to know). Paige is unfriendly and rude sometimes, but behaves with average civility other times. Eddie is reckless and drunken back in Denmark, landing himself in the tabloids on a regular basis; yet his first day at an American college, he’s quoting Shakespeare and behaving with utmost gentility.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?! Never mind, I don’t care.

D+ (1 hr., 49 min.; PG, a little profanity, some sexuality.)