TV on DVD: Princess Protection Program -- Royal B.F.F. Extended Edition (2009)

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When there's something strange in the kingdom, crowned royalty can't exactly call the Ghostbusters nor are they able to disappear into the Witness Protection Program dubbed "Witsec" by hip U.S. Marshall Mary Shannon on USA Network's In Plain Sight.

No, instead as we learn in the most recent hit Disney Channel Original Movie (which as of its June 30 DVD release date had already garnered over 28 million unique viewers from around the globe)-- a top secret agency funded by the world's wealthiest royal families has been set up. Its mission is simple and important-- namely the major function is to move jeopardized royals like Demi Lovato's soon-to-be queen Rosalinda into "P.P.P." a.k.a. the International Princess Protection Program to keep them from harm.

Comprised of four stages including extraction, transition, transformation, and relocation-- after Rosalinda's life is threatened when a powerful adversary stages a coup and names himself the president of two small countries including her beloved Costa Luna, the young woman has no choice but to escape, disappearing into P.P.P. with Major Mason (Tom Verica).

Since he is a trusted agent and friend of her mother's, Rosalinda follows her mother's advice literally by only trusting Major Mason during her transition as the young woman leaves her identity as Princess Rosalinda behind. And shortly following her departure by helicopter, she learns she's simply #383 in the chain of threatened royalty. That is until after some modern clothes and a few contemporary layers cut into her lovely locks later with the shortened moniker of Rosie Gonzelez-- the lonely princess journeys home to Louisiana with the major under the guise that she's the Iowan cousin of his tomboy daughter Carter (Selena Gomez).

Tired of being overlooked by the subject of her roughly decade long crush on Donnie (Robert Adamson) who conveniently forgets her name every two minutes (aside from the times he uses Carter for free fishing bait sold at her father's shop)-- Carter resents the beautiful, prissy, backstabbing girls of her local high school who are currently stressing about which one will be voted to become homecoming queen.

With an eye-roll and a sigh to her father about her dislike of girls
she refers to as "princesses," like Jamie Chung's Chelsea and Samantha Droke's Brooke who go to school complete with costume changes and have boys wrapped around their little fingers-- the last thing Carter wants is for a bona fide princess to live temporarily under her roof until it's safe for Rosie to return back to Costa Luna.

Impatient in dealing with Rosie's lack of social skills and proper mannerisms involving her wish to have the room to herself, her statement of "yes, you are excused," and telling Carter that she can help prepare her for bed-- obviously, it isn't long before the girl who speaks fluent French and uses a fork to cut her hamburger in the lunch room draws suspicious whispers and looks from all around.

And while I was amazed that the major failed to put his foot down while Carter set up Rosie in a cruel "chore duty" prank-- making us lose some sympathy for the likable Wizards of Waverly Place star Gomez's bratty character-- Carter's reluctance to help her phony cousin or roll out the welcome mat only increases when Rosie inevitably catches Donnie's eye.

Yet when she realizes her new roommate's willingness not to stoop to the level of the fake American "princesses" like Chelsea and Brooke who seek pleasure in torturing others including setting Rosie up for an embarrassing disaster, soon Carter realizes she has a lot to learn about what it takes to truly be a princess.

Likewise, Rosie's struggle to see life from a formerly privileged point-of-view as an ambassador in the spotlight is challenged as well when she arrives in a country where she doesn't know a soul and has a hard time just coping with the day to day stuff like finding someones to sit with at lunch or how to fit in at high school.

Of course, inevitably and in true Disney fashion, the girls become friends and learn from the experiences of one another. And while it's predictable all the way and seems to have drawn from some classic Disney tales such as The Parent Trap in the dynamic of the young women as well as once again going back to the studio's favorite female well of fairy tale princesses a la Enchanted and The Princess Diaries-- the two young charismatic leads with beaming smiles are able to draw from their tight-knit friendship (having shared the screen and been part of each other's life since appearing on TV's Barney as children) to make this yet another infectiously fun, high quality Disney Channel Original Movie.

While of course the channel does love to revisit popular hits with sequels and the slightly cheesy Mission Impossible-esque final moment of the work a la a book-end that didn't fit made me fear that a sequel was in the works (and indeed I think I may have predicted it as conveniently Carter's father and Rosalinda's mother could marry like the real Parent Trap), in this case I think that would be a misstep.

For, at its heart, director Allison Liddi-Brown's Princess Protection Program is an admittedly frothy and forgettable yet glossy, silly, and upbeat film about the power of female friendship that marks a refreshing offering for the channel in that-- of course while still turning to "fairy tale" like princesses for source material-- places the idea of girls looking out for each other well ahead of any romantic subplot.

Tying in with this theme, the Royal Extended Edition of the 2009 DVD release boasts a "B.F.F. necklace set," a tween friendly behind the scenes featurette where the real life best friends discuss their own relationship and the making of the film and a music video for their song "One and the Same."

Additionally, it offers a fascinating look at the role of contemporary princesses in society in a worthwhile extra that interviews a real-life Russian princess who breaks down the facts from the myth and above all discusses the importance in having a big heart, giving back to others, and the main job description of "being able to represent your country," in a candid discussion that goes beyond the "Disneyfied" fairy tale look of princesses living castles all waiting for their princes to come.

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