Paige Morgan (Julia Stiles) is under a lot of pressure. She's a pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin so she's got class all day a minimum wage job tending bar in the evenings and she burns the midnight oil filling out med school applications through the night. She's driven she's got goals and by golly she doesn't have time for love. Prince Edvard (Luke Mably) on the other hand lives a charmed existence: He'll be king one day and he lives in a castle in Denmark travels the world races fast cars has a butler (Ben Miller) to tend to his every need and his exploits in love are emblazoned on the pages of nearly every European tabloid. But when the royal mum and dad (Miranda Richardson and James Fox) demand that Edward start acting like a guy about to become king he's feeling some pressure too. Miraculously an infomercial featuring hot Midwestern college girls baring their breasts inspires him to head for the dairy capital of the world--penniless but with butler in tow--where he meets Paige. He introduces himself simply as "Eddie " then asks her to bare her breasts. This tack naturally gets him nowhere fast so he decides to woo this coed spitfire by learning to be a little more like her and a little less like the pampered prince that she as yet doesn't know him to be: He gets a job tutors her in Shakespeare and helps with the chores when they visit her parents' dairy farm. Love blooms but what the future holds for these star-crossed lovers from two such different worlds remains to be seen.
With The Prince & Me Stiles adds another lightweight coed romance to a growing list that includes Save the Last Dance and A Guy Thing and as usual the talented actress adds more to the role than she gets from it. When her character's in her element especially on the family farm in Wisconsin Stiles comes off as genuine and the performance is relatively natural although her accent still carries vestiges of the posh 1950s school girl she played in the recent Mona Lisa Smile which rings a little false. Mably seems well cast as the dashing prince; he's reminiscent of a young Prince Andrew or England's current favorite royal Prince William. Mably's physical resemblance to these swoon-worthy royals helps fuel the chemistry between his character and Stiles' but chemistry isn't enough to overcome the overlong journey to the resolution of the formulaic plot. Nonetheless adolescent girls will absolutely love this movie and no doubt will moon over pictures of the real-life princes and Mably himself in Tiger Beat for many days to come.
Once Eddie and Paige feel the initial spark of young love The Prince & Me is a series of innocent courtship scenes and fish-out-of-water antics culminating in a few too many will-they-won't-they cliffhangers as Eddie is pushed toward the throne and Paige has to decide whether or not she wants to trade in "Dr. Morgan" for "Her Majesty the Queen." Throughout the movie one wonders how director Martha Coolidge and writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler will end the fantasy: Will Paige be queen? Or will she stay true to her own dreams? Will Edward give up the throne to be with Paige? Or will The Prince & Me overcome all the obstacles of its formulaic plot setup and be--gasp--original? The filmmakers don't seem able to decide and there are at least three stuttering codas at the conclusion of the movie none of them particularly memorable or fulfilling. Alas poor Yorick you'll have to see it to find out what they are but let's just say Romeo and Juliet this ain't.
In the sci-fi thriller 28 Days Later a psychological rage-inducing virus is unleashed the type of vile horror-movie germ that infects its victims within 20 seconds and causes them to violently spew out contagious pathogens. The bug is set free when a group of animal activists free some infected chimps from a primate research facility in London. Twenty-eight days later Jim (Cillian Murphy) a bike courier wakes up from a coma and finds himself in the deserted intensive care unit of a hospital. He eventually stumbles on to the street and from old newspaper clippings littering the streets of London realizes the foggy metropolis has been evacuated. Jim eventually hooks up with another "survivor " Selina (Naomi Harris) who brings him up to speed on what has happened: All of Britain has been contaminated and they have no way of knowing if the disease has spread worldwide. Their only salvation comes in the form of a taped broadcast message by a group of Manchester soldiers saying they have the answer to infection and invite any survivors to join them at their blockade. After a harrowing hike to the barricade and dodging attacks form rage-infected lunatics the duo thinks they have found salvation. But this armed force is not there to offer deliverance--they are a militia of out-of-control megalomaniacs ready to jump-start human civilization.
Murphy and Harris the two lead actors in the film are relatively unknown yet are capable of carrying the pic and both give strong performances that complement each other. Murphy's character Jim for example first awakens in the hospital lost and confused--but by the end of the film he emerges as a leader a champion. This change however isn't triggered by any one incident and we never feel blindsided by his heroic transformation. Harris's character Selina on the other hand starts off hardened and pessimistic but gradually lets her guard down. Alone her only goal was survival. But when she hooks up with Jim her aspirations change not only because of the friendship they develop but because he is able to make her see that surviving simply isn't enough that as humans beings they also need freedom and happiness. And although Selina develops a somewhat softer side in the film she is never a helpless victim waiting to be rescued by the film's male protagonist. Another important character in the film is Hannah played by Megan Burns. Hannah is a young girl that Jim and Selina scoop up in their northbound trek to the military blockade. Burns who made her feature debut in the 2001 period drama Liam is an excellent addition to the cast and her character adds a touching and personal element to the gruesome storyline.
Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) delivers a post-apocalyptic horror film an homage of sorts to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead in which an army of dead bodies comes to life and terrorizes a group of friends trapped inside a farmhouse. Although 28 Days Later--from The Beach author Alex Garland's debut screenplay--tells a different tale the grainy shaky camera work is very derivative of the 1968 cult pic. Shot entirely on digital video the film has a gritty appearance that makes it look and feel like a shocking documentary rather than a sci-fi feature. Boyle also uses low light levels and strobe effects to conceal the movie's cheesy low-tech special effects--specifically the flock of red contact lens wearing zombies. But despite its cost-cutting optical effects this contemporary horror has the power to shock and frighten because the protagonist's most dangerous adversaries not only come in the form of frightening flesh-eaters but militiamen in fatigues. 28 Days Later's most striking sequences however are the warily calm opening scenes in which Jim wanders through the streets of London--crossing Westminster Bridge and reading the bulletin board at Piccadilly Circus--without a body in sight. Blocking off the busy streets of such a compact bustling city had to be Boyle's most ambitious undertaking in the film's production.