So. The Princess Protection Program. How to describe this movie? Hmmm. Let's try this: the best thing about this movie is Demi Lovato's acting. Wow. But, to be fair, if you don't care about things like how monarchies function, or international relations, or government agencies, or basically anything remotely resembling the actuality of princesses (or, you know, plot) it's actually quite enjoyable! Once you accept that nothing makes any sense and just go with it, it's a sort of charming tale of the surprisingly likeable girls developing a friendship. And I actually kind of enjoyed it.
Okay, so here goes. We tune in on, miraculously, not the last day of school, but rather on Selena Gomez and her Creepy Pageant Baby Face, working at a bait shop in the Louisiana Bayou. She gives away some free bait to a guy named Donny, who I will be referring to as McDoucherson, because he is a ginormous douche. This is made apparent immediately: Selena gives him the bait because a) she is Totes In Love with him, but also because b) he agreed to give her a ride to school. Even though he doesn't know her name (it's Carter, because she's a tom boy, and tom boys always have boy names, see?). But McDoucherson's girlfriend, a bitchy Asian girl named Chelsea (no, really, Disney, you aren't subverting stereotypes by making every Asian character a villain) has her dress in McDoucherson's car, and won't move it to give Selena room, and McDoucherson shrugs and drives off EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD A DEAL. So they (along with Chelsea's nervous sidekick) speed off, and Selena calls them spoiled princesses, which is a wacky bit of foreshadowing because gosh! Soon she's going to have to deal with a real princess! Clever! Or, wait, the other thing, where it isn't clever, just awkward dialogue.
Anyway. Selena's dad has to go out on a mysterious mission for two days. He promises "it's a routine op" and he'll be fine.
MEANWHILE! In the small country of Costa Luna, Princess Demi Lovato is practicing for her coronation in a month. While she chatters with her swishy gay sidekick/dress designer Mr. Elagante, her mom exposits that since her husband passed away, only Demi can become queen of Costa Luna, or, as I will call it henceforth (based on the accents of everyone who appears in this scene), Fakeonia. So Demi might get in trouble, and someone named General Kane might try and attack her, but (gasp!) Selana's dad is there to protect her!
You know, because really, you hire the most body guards for the practice coronation, a month before the real event. But I guess that is when trouble happens, because right as a helpful old man in generic religious garb goes to place the tiara on Demi's head, gasp! The general shows up! And he throws a sword through the tiara and starts a food fight! That means he is totes the dictator now, and so Selana's dad grabs Demi and drags her off, because surely an American soldier kidnapping the princess of a sovereign nation won't be any kind of international incident. (Meanwhile, Mr. Elegante is dragged off by soldiers, and smirks a little bit, which is so very inappropriate, Disney Channel.) And even though Demi and Selena's dad take, like, 15 minutes to leave, and walk right in front of some enemy soldiers without anyone bothering them or trying to stop their helicopter from taking off, for some reason Demi's mom has to stay behind. But the general doesn't kill her (or even, as far as we see, imprison her -- he makes reference to it, but every time she shows up she's wearing a ball gown with her hair done, so that's some special prison Kane has, I guess). Because that's totally not something you want to do when you overthrow a country.
Note to self: start working on that "Become Empress of Everything" plan a bit more seriously, because you are smarter than this villain, and apparently, no one will try to stop you. Not as long as you throw chocolate sauce on people, anyway, I guess.
Here's the weird thing, though; Demi actually kind of pulls of scared and sad but still dignified and trying to hold her shit together in this scene. Which isn't "generically happy" and thus much more complex than anything she has ever conveyed before. Go, Demi?
So Selena's dad takes Demi to a top-secret facility, which is the headquarters of the Princess Protection Program, where they do nothing but hide exiled princesses. (Apparently, there are 29 princesses currently being protected, because this whole "throw your sword through a tiara and stage a coup" thing is pretty common, I guess. And there are, like, 15 princesses wandering around trying on new clothes and such in the background.) They give Demi a makeover so she'll look like a normal girl, which involves trimming her bangs a little and unbraiding her hair.
This is also the scene where it becomes clear that whoever wrote the movie confused "regal" with "robotic" dialogue, because Demi isn't allowed to use any contractions. Her delivery is dead flat most of the time, but that's at least as much the dialogue's fault as it is hers, but it makes her sound more like Summer Glau Terminator character than anything else. Anyway, they send her off with Selena's dad to go into hiding… Disguised as Selena's cousin! Wacky!
Back on the bayou, Selena chatters with her bus driver, who's the prostitute from My Name Is Earl, which is mildly disconcerting. She and Demi run into each other and it's wacky hijinks! Selena doesn't want to share her room! Demi is afraid of lizards! Selena's a tom boy! Demi wears dresses! It's like the odd couple, but really stupid!
So without bothering to enroll or anything, Demi now goes to Selena's school. They get off the bus and meet Zach from Sky High, who continues with his traditional role of being That Kind of Tall Guy, who is, for some reason, filming Selena (and I guess some other girls) because of homecoming? Okay. McDoucherson is a douche to Demi until he discerns that she's hot, and Demi sticks out like a sore thumb because she speaks French in French class. (Fair enough; I took high school French and never actually learned a word. On the other hand, even I can tell that her accent is terrible.) But for all people are totally mean to her because she does crazy things like use a napkin and a fork when she eats her hamburger, the dudes all think she's hot, so Chelsea decides she is competition that must be taken down. Some teacher announces that it's time to nominate girls for Homecoming Queen, to narrow it down to three -- the Princesses, if you will, GET IT??? -- with the final winner announced at the dance. Demi totally humiliates Selena by nominating her, not realizing that she's a tom boy, and everyone laughs. Because tom boys don't like dresses so they can't be Homecoming Princess because that would be ridiculous! Next thing you know, basketball players will be singing, or baking! Smart girls will pop'n'lock! Stoners will play the cello!
Demi remains plucky and upbeat even though Selena dislikes her; Selena agrees to try and be nice to her for her dad's sake. But Selena plays a mean trick on her by making her, um, count worms. So basically, Selena is playing the same character she always plays -- bitchy -- and Demi is… Again, surprisingly decent. It's a variant on her standard "look how nice I am! Please like me!" girl, but with a bit more, I can't believe I'm typing this, depth. And she's kind of… empathetic. And if you squint hard enough, you can see both characters' motivations. Demi and Selena play off each other pretty well. I kind of, like… Almost care about them and stuff. Girls fighting but then banding together to help each other out and becoming BFFs! It warms my cold, dead heart! Even though it's ludicrously bad.
Anyway, Demi and Selena finally make peace, so Selena takes Demi bowling. At the bowling alley, Zach from Sky High is adorable and tall, and McDoucherson is a douche. Demi turns out to be great at bowling, and all the boys think she's hot, and Selena is frustrated because her dad and McDoucherson and Zach from Sky High all suddenly like Demi best. But of course, and all the girls hate Demi because the boys like her (because girls only care about what boys think and consider one another strictly in terms of competition, you see) so they decide to prank her so she'll be humiliated and no one will vote for her for Homecoming Princess. Naturally, they start by pretending to be her friend (because girls are mean and scheming and are never actually really friends with each other; on a related note I AM SO FULL OF HATE FROM THIS PART OF THE PLOT. Well, "plot." WHATEVER, HATE.).
When Selena angrily tells Demi she should go get a job, Demi does so. Chelsea gets Demi hired at her father's frozen yogurt restaurant, where she is immediately put on duty, as the only one working, and she's never been trained, and OH MY GOD HAS NO ONE AT DISNEY EVER WORKED A JOB OF ANY KIND, EVER? Chelsea calls everyone to laugh at her and has some dude sabotage the machine, so the customers are mad and there's frozen yogurt everywhere! Heck, you could overthrow a small country that way! Selena comes to save the day, but not before Demi is humiliated, and Demi's moment of wounded dignity is actually… Surprisingly good (I know I keep saying that, but I keep being surprised). But the plan has backfired, because everyone thought Demi was pretty cool about the whole thing, so Chelsea starts scheming again.
Meanwhile, in Fakeonia! The General has an evil scheme to marry Demi's mom, but not for real, just to make sure Demi finds out about it. See, that'll lure Demi back into the country, so the General can then, um, exile her. Awesome plan, dude.
At school the next day, the three princesses are announced: Chelsea, Demi, and Selena! Because, see, Chelsea's plan backfired again! She told everyone to vote for Selena, not Demi, but instead they voted for Selena and Demi! ZOMG! And then McDoucherson asks out Demi. And, in a pretty awesome moment, she shuts him down flat. ("Oh. It is very kind of you to ask. But no. Excuse me.")
Selena is sad because McDoucherson doesn't like her, so Demi decides to make her feel like a princess by having her… Volunteer to read to children? Um, sure. Oh, and then they go on a wacky shopping trip! I liked this sequence better when it was in A Cinderella Story, but eventually they find perfect dresses for themselves. But at this point, Chelsea's nervous sidekick runs across a Spanish-language magazine with Demi on the cover, for some reason. And she immediately figures out that Demi is a princess! Like, she immediately figures it out without opening the magazine or reading the article or anything. Meanwhile, Selena's dad finds out about the General's evil plan, and Chelsea bosses around some nerdy girl we've never seen before. Nervous sidekick tells her about Demi. Chelsea then goes to blackmail Demi, but instead, just throws their dresses on some gravel. OH NOES, NOT GRAVEL! I mean, to be fair, there's a mud puddle, too, but on the other hand, they are on the freaking bayou and there is an enormous, muddy, algae-covered lake two feet away. The upshot is, how will Demi and Selena go to the dance if there is gravel on their dresses???
Somewhere around here, Demi finds out about her mother's fake marriage, and wants to go back to Fakeonia, but Selena makes her promise to stay through homecoming and hatches a wacky scheme. It mostly seems to involve calling Mr. Elegante and having him make them new dresses, and then giving makeovers to the various nerdy girls who've been wandering around in the background.
And then comes homecoming. Selena's big plan involves everyone wearing masks, except for when they're not, which is about 90% of the time. And so a long line of now-pretty, made-over nerdy girls walk past the boys, who of course are so captivated that no one notices when Chelsea's dress gets caught in a car and she starts screaming and her dress rips and she falls on the ground, LOL! (See, it's funny because boys only care about hot girls, and will totally ignore everything else when they see one, get it?) Inside, Selena dances with some freshman and McDoucherson walks over to her and asks her out. She shuts him down, because hey! He's a total douche! She points out to him that he only is asking her out because she's hot all dressed up -- but she's still the same tom boy she always was, and she's proud of who she is, and she deserves better than someone who can't even remember her name. I mean this non-sarcastically: It is AWESOME. And of course, in the bathroom, Chelsea continues her slow descent into madness, as her nervous sidekick finally ditches her. Chelsea runs outside and smack into, gasp, the general! He heads inside and kidnaps a now-re-bemasked Selena, mistaking her for Demi; thirty seconds later, Demi wins Homecoming Queen and goes up on stage. Good thing that dude doesn't look back, I guess. Also a good thing that everyone at the school was down with voting for a girl who doesn't even go there.
Demi gives a speech, with the camera right up her nose, but Selena is too busy being kidnapped to listen. Realizing Selena has vanished, Demi goes searching, but is interrupted by Chelsea, who freaks out and demands the homecoming crown, then falls in a pool. As you do when you're the villainess in a DCOM, I guess. Demi sees Selena and runs up to stop her, the general grabs Demi instead, and opens the door to his helicopter. But Selena's dad jumps out and accuses him of kidnapping! It's a sting! Except then he lectures Selena about doing something super dangerous, even though he had to have been in on it, so… huh? It's kind of the least climactic ending ever; no one actually gets kidnapped or even especially menaced, no one gets shot, and the villain goes without putting up a fight. Demi gives the crown to Selena, but a bedraggled Chelsea runs over and demands it. Selena laughs it off, because… Wacky!
And then, back in Fakeonia, everyone is happy and Demi is crowned. The end. So, in conclusion: it turns out princesses aren't just spoiled and superficial after all! They're actually nice and generous and hard working, and totally deserving of your love and respect! But if someone calls you a princess, it's totally an insult.
In closing, have Demi and Selena's music video. At your own risk, though. I am much more favorably disposed towards them as actresses than I was before watching the movie,* but that good will doesn't extend to their singing.
* Well, mostly towards Demi; I already enjoyed Selena quite a bit.