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Television Review

'Princess & the Marine' Lacks a Sense of Romance, Intrigue

February 17, 2001|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The Princess & the Marine," NBC's fact-based tale of the serviceman who smuggled an Islamic woman into the United States, never approaches royalty.

In 1999, Princess Meriam Al-Khalifa (Marisol Nichols), a member of Bahrain's royal family, was a restless teen living a life of luxury in her Persian Gulf island nation, where she felt like a prisoner in her own home.

Jason Johnson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) was a devout Mormon from Las Vegas who believed in his country, true love and always following the rules.

Were these crazy kids made for each other or what?

To make a long and rather uninvolving story short, Meriam defied her family and conservative culture by seeing Jason on the sly, unaware she was being followed by the secret police, which spilled the beans to her angry, humiliated mother, who declared, "No man will want you!"

Did that stop Romeo and Juliet, um, Meriam and Jason? Surely you jest.

After exchanging numerous letters with Meriam through an intermediary at the mall, Jason eventually manufactured forged military documents that enabled them to flee her homeland.

In truth, the couple may have encountered enormous difficulty carrying out their perilous plan, but that danger doesn't come across in the underwhelming script by Ronni Kern. And because we know the well-chronicled outcome, there's minimal suspense despite the effort from director Mike Robe.

Nichols, a Latina appearing in the Showtime series "Resurrection Blvd.," portrays Meriam as a dewy-eyed, love-struck schoolgirl who cries (a lot) when not staring dreamily into Jason's eyes. And she never strikes any genuine sparks with Gosselaar, who seems handcuffed by his limiting role as all-around Good Guy.

* "The Princess & the Marine" can be seen Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC. The network has rated it TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14).

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