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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > What A Girl Wants

MOVIE REVIEWS

WHAT A GIRL WANTS (2003)

Starring Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Oliver James, Jonathan Pryce, Anna Chancellor, Christina Cole, Eileen Atkins, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Chris Mulkey, Raffaello Degruttola, David Dionisio and Raymond Young.  

Screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler.

Directed by Dennie Gordon.

Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures.  103 minutes.  Rated PG.

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What A Girl Wants

It’s not a good sign when a movie is named after a Christina Aguilera song.  (It could have been worse, I guess, this could be Dirrty: The Movie.)  But the title of this movie is actually pretty accurate.  This is what a girl wants.  At least that was the feeling I got when I saw this film in a theater packed with eight to thirteen-year old girls and some frazzled mothers, and they all seemed to be enjoying the movie more than I was. 

I didn’t hate it, either.  It was a pleasant enough piece of fluff… an after school special at feature length.  Not to in any way suggest that What A Girl Wants is a good film.  In many ways it is insufferably bad.  It goes down smoothly enough, though.  The film’s ads are quite vocal in comparing it to The Princess Diaries, which is not too surprising since it is essentially the same movie. 

Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who finally comes in contact with her royal family.  Her mother Libby (Kelly Preston), is a bohemian free spirit who never gave up her musical aspirations (though would a real bohemian sing Celine Dion covers as a wedding singer?).  Years earlier she had met and fallen in love with a British aristocrat, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth).  They were married, but eventually his uptight family forced her out.  But, from the time she was a baby, Daphne has dreamed of finally getting to know her father. 

Now this storyline would be a little more buyable if it was 1960 and Hayley Mills was the star.  But, it's 2003, when about half of all children are growing up in single-parent households.  Still, we’ll give the plot the benefit of the doubt. 

Bynes catches a plane to London without even telling her mother, which seems rather heartless for someone who so values the parent-child relationship.  Once across the pond, she catches a tour in a double-decker bus while the Clash’s “London Calling” pounds on the soundtrack.  (Did the filmmakers even bother to listen to the lyrics to this song, or did they just assume their audience wouldn’t know this old song and would only understand the word London was in it?) 

Daphne meets a cute Brit singer (Oliver James) whose accent occasionally disappears for no apparent reason.  When she meets her father, he is about to remarry for the first time since Libby disappeared, to the daughter of his top aide (Jonathan Pryce.)  His fiancée, Glynnis (Anna Chancellor, playing the exact same role as she played in Four Weddings and a Funeral) and her daughter (Christina Cole) are snooty aristocrats who try to make Daphne look bad, but Henry quickly comes to love her vivaciousness. 

Of course, this dreadful American girl becomes a huge sensation in the Carnaby Street tabloids, severely hampering Lord Henry’s political clout.  The family tries to get Daphne to curb her exuberance, but they eventually realize... to quote her hunky new boyfriend... why should Daphne try to fit in when she was born to stand out? 

These little plot developments really mean nothing, though, because the happy ending has been inevitable since the opening credits.  The snooty people will get their comeuppance, Henry will realize love is more important than politics or appearances, Daphne will get a rich dad and a cute boyfriend and Libby a loving husband.  Still, the movie gently gives the girls watching it some nice lessons in self-confidence and family love. 

The most important and interesting thing about this movie is Bynes, who shows here that she is a natural star who has what it takes to make the leap from TV to film.  I just hope her next film has a little more substance.  (4/03)

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: April 4, 2003.

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Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: April 4, 2003.