Mark Twain may be better known for his stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but the first Twain story to be put on celluloid was The Prince and the Pauper, which hit the big screen twice before Huck or Tom made the grade. Twain is legendary for his writings and his witticisms. He’s the one who first said, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to,” and, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”
When Twain wrote The Prince and the Pauper, a classic story of identity swapping, he likely didn’t anticipate that it would inspire later works of art, especially films. But it has been made in various film versions at least 11 times over the decades. The Prince and the Surfer is a 1990s updating of the story, complete with California beach locations and skateboarders.
Cash Canty (Sean Kellman) is your average L.A. kid who hangs out with his friends near the beach. Prince Edward of Gelfland (also played by Kellman) is Cash’s spitting image, and he’s in the same area on a royal visit. The prince is tired of being overly protected and itches to get away and see the world of America on his own. Neither knows that he has a look-alike. When Cash bumps into an attractive young woman who’s a member of the royal entourage, he finds himself face to face with himself, or at least with the prince. The two figure they’ve got a golden opportunity. By swapping identities for a while, the prince can have his freedom and Cash can get closer to Galina (Katie Jane Johnston), the attractive young woman who caught his eye, and who just happens to be the prince’s intended future mate.
Cash and the prince go their separate ways and, of course, all sorts of things go funny. While Cash pursues Galina and catches on to a plot by one of the royal family’s trusted advisors, the prince falls for Cash’s friend Melissa (Katie Jane Johnston) and finds life interesting, but a bit rough, in middle class America. The virtual twins come together at the end to foil the plot and ensure a happy ending.
This is decent, but unspectacular family entertainment, with plenty of minor thrills and laughs for the eight to 12-year-old set. It’s all predictable and there’s nothing outstanding about the production, but there are also no major failings. Sure, some of the secondary characters are nothing more than silly stereotypes (including those played by the screenwriter and one of the co-directors), but most kids won’t mind that. And the young stars have energy and just enough acting talent to pull it off. Kellman is decent in his dual role, although the silly stuffy accent he puts on for the prince wears thin after a while. Cardellini is a decently spunky Melissa, while Johnston is a bit irritating in her efforts to portray the spoilt Galina.