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Her Majesty

(2004) * 1/2 Pg
105 min. Panorama Entertainment. Director: Mark J. Gordon (II). Cast: Sally Andrews, Vicky Haughton, Mark Clare, Alison Routledge, Craig Elliott.

An emblematic moment in Her Majesty comes when the little Kiwi girl has a fantasy song-and-dance number in her mind. That the number is sadly lame shows that Her Majesty has worse problems than a lack of realism, namely mediocre direction and acting that's at the level of bad community theatre.

In 1953 New Zealand, a girl named Elizabeth (logy newcomer Sally Andrews) longs to meet the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II, if only her royal inspection tour will grace the town of Middleton (motto: Good People, Good Cheese) with a visit. Happily, writer-director Mark J. Gordon proffers a stronger role model than a glamorous and moneyed figurehead: a Maori woman named Hira Mata, played (with horrible gusto) by Vicki Houghton.

Hira Mata is an experienced sufferer: she laments the historical theft of a family heirloom and endures regular vandalism and slurs from local J.D.s(including Elizabeth's spiteful brother). "We keep to our kind and they keep to theirs," explains Elizabeth's father. "It's just the way it is." But the plucky Pollyanna won't let it lie: drifting from her royal dreams, she yearns to learn her history at the feet of the Maori grande dame.

If you can somehow squint your way past the ham acting and the Afterschool Special-ready preachiness about prejudice, dead-end schoolgirl crushes, and learning to stand up for beliefs, perhaps you'll agree with the critic who lazily branded it "this year's Whale Rider!" Good luck with that.

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