To conclude its week-long celebration of Valentine”s Day, NBC is airing a made-for-TV movie based on the real-life love affair between a Bahraini princess and a U.S. Marine Lance Corporal that dominated the newspapers last year.
In this reverse Cinderella story, U.S. Marine Jason Johnson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, a.k.a. Zack Morris from “Saved by the Bell”) is stationed in Bahrain where he meets and falls in love with Meriam Al-Khalifa (Marisol Nichols), a member of the royal family. However, since Meriam”s religion does not even permit her to choose a husband, instead relying on arranged marriages, she and Jason must make do with secret rendezvous at the local mall (apparently the mall is a central part of the Bahraini culture too).
Like all TV movies, “The Princess and the Marine” requires some suspension of disbelief. Meriam and Jason first meet when she “randomly” calls his room at the local army base. It is also a bit hard to believe that the Bahraini people do not recognize and approach Meriam, who is royalty, while she is strolling among them at the mall and the airport.
Although some of the plot devices are a bit thin, this is an enjoyable romantic tale. When Meriam”s parents forbid her to leave the house unescorted because of her initial meetings with Jason, the two manage to exchange letters via a drop site at the mall and eventually Jason proposes just as the Marines are about to re-assign him.
Fortunately, the pair is saved by the bell (or, actually, by forged military documents that allow Meriam to sneak out of the country with Jason and marry him in America). Unfortunately, the pair”s problems are not over, as INS wants to send Meriam back to Bahrain and the Marines want to court-martial Jason for forgery.
My only true complaint about this movie is that the ending is very ambiguous, partly because the real-life Jason and Meriam are still awaiting the Immigration and Naturalization Services” decision on her immigration status. NBC should have waited a bit to air this until the real-life story was truly over. However, “The Princess and the Marine” nicely fits the Valentine”s Day theme of love conquering all.