Terrible Movie Review: The Princess and the Marine (2001)

Some time ago, I got it into my head that doing a Terrible Movie Review feature would be fun for the blog.  I like bad movies–and I watch them fairly frequently.  I’ve even reviewed a few of them here before.  The first Terrible Movie Review I (officially) reviewed was the Selena Gomez schmaltzfest Monte Carlo.  Then…nothing.  Well, I’m here to tell you that you need not wait any longer, Gentle Readers!  TMR has returned–with a vengeance!

U.S. Marine Jason Johnson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is stationed in Bahrain in 1999.  It is there that he meets Meriam Al-Khalifa (Marisol Nichols), a  young Bahraini woman who also happens to be Bahraini royalty.  Despite the fact that Meriam is Muslim and Jason is Mormon, the two fall in love.  When news of their romance reaches her family, she is forbidden to see Jason.  Jason devises a plan to sneak Meriam out of the country using forged papers and a New York Yankees hat.  Of course, once she’s stateside, she’s taken into U.S. custody and attempts to apply for asylum, claiming that if she’s forced to go back to Bahrain there’s a good chance she’ll be killed.  In the meantime, she and Jason get married (he was 23 and she was 19).  Is there love for real or just infatuation amped up by their circumstances?

I was sixteen when the movie premiered on NBC.  Readers, no matter how jaded and cynical you are now, you have to admit that there’s something there, right?  A modern-day Romeo and Juliet?  Star-crossed lovers?  Two people who are completely different and defy the odds to be together?  Whatever the case may be, a movie like this plays into one of the ultimate fantasies (and is essentially the title of a romance novel).  At sixteen, this was the kind of movie that worked for me: I realized it wasn’t particularly well-made, but I loved it anyway.

Rewatching it in my late twenties, it’s been an entirely different experience.  The things I was willing to ignore–the cheap sets, the lack of any detail regarding the story, the fact that most of the acting is mediocre at best–are a lot harder to ignore now.  There’s no getting around this one: this made-for-TV movie is not very good.  It’s pretty terrible, actually.

I don’t mean to discredit it completely, though.  Both Gosselaar and Nichols are very sweet together and have a nice chemistry onscreen.  The two do the most they can with what they’re given to work with, but it’s not enough.  Not by far.

The fact is, the sets do little to try to convince viewers that they’re actually in Bahrain (it almost seems as though Bahrain the country is nothing more than Meriam’s palace and the local shopping mall).  Viewers are forced into Jason and Meriam’s romance without any real set-up for it, and from that moment forward, everything is rushed: their first kiss, their declaration of love, and their discovery.  There’s no time here to allow things to unfold, and the result is a total mess.

All the standard made-for-TV movie issues are present here.  The script is not particularly well-written, the story is dumbed down for the audience, there are moments edited with the intention of a commercial break, etc.  There’s also the issue of the dubious casting choices–Nichols is actually Hispanic, and most of the other Bahraini girls she associates with seem to be of Indian descent.  The bottom line is that when it comes down to it, the movie isn’t very memorable.

To add serious insult to injury, Johnson and Al-Khalifa aren’t even together any more.  The two divorced in 2004, after Johnson claimed that the Las Vegas lifestyle had been too appealing to Al-Khalifa.  This bums me out, not least of all because Johnson was discharged from the Marines after the smuggling stunt he pulled.  Talk about lose-lose.

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