Will the love of a dashing Danish prince divert a spunky American farmer’s daughter from her dreams of becoming a doctor? The short answer in The Prince & Me is, not on your life, bub, this is the U.S. of A., so screw your lazy European royalty! But the longer answer is more complicated – and confusing.
The ”me” in this naive wish-fulfillment fantasy of surface charm (directed by Martha Coolidge) is Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles), premed major at the University of Wisconsin and a sterling specimen of American collegiate loveliness. Stiles, who recently employed her reliable persona of studious/pretty girl in ”Mona Lisa Smile,” once again plays a student of a certain seriousness of purpose who works part-time as a barmaid at the local sudserie, but carries herself with the self-contained aplomb of a visiting dignitary.
The ”prince” of the title is Edvard (British import Luke Mably, who has a hint of Josh Lucas around the eyes), a directionless playboy in line for the Danish throne, much to the worry of his parents, the king (James Fox) and queen (Miranda Richardson). Planning to goof off in pursuit of easy Midwestern coeds, he enrolls at Wisconsin, styles himself as just plain Eddie, meets Paige, and falls in love. His good luck: Eddie learns from Paige that working hard the American way builds character, that egalitarian family life beats the yes-man ministrations of a long-suffering valet (Ben Miller), and that America actually has tons to teach all of Europe, if only the stuffy old continent would listen and stop showing off about its culture, history, and jewelry collection.
As happens in classic fairy tales, the prince asks Paige to marry him and become his princess. But as happens all too frequently in modern versions, Paige isn’t allowed to choose one solution (love wins out over career and easy access to Wisconsin relatives) or the other (career and home needs require the sacrifice of fairy-tale love) and stick with it, lest proponents of the other choice feel alienated; in a series of endings, she, and the audience, are falsely promised that she can have it all. In other words, ”The Prince & Me” is committed to the controversial American policy of No Fantasy Left Behind.