What A Girl Wants

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Review byMatthew Turner28/07/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Fluffy, silly and packed with the usual London clichés, this is still surprisingly good fun, thanks to a sparkling performance by Amanda Bynes.

Child star Amanda Bynes is much better known in the States than she is here, thanks to her success on shows such as All That and Nickleodeon’s The Amanda Show. She’s best known to UK audiences as Frankie Muniz’s delightful co-star in Big Fat Liar, but here she gets her own vehicle, which opens just three weeks ahead of her TV ‘rival’ Hilary Duff’s The Lizzie Maguire Movie (due August 29th).

Impulsive Child Seeks Father

Bynes plays Daphne Reynolds, a seventeen year old girl who lives with her single mother (Kelly Preston) in New York and daydreams about the father she never knew. Impulsively, she hops on a plane to London, intending to track him down, whereupon she discovers that he is, in fact, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth: Stuffy Upper-Class Brits a Speciality), who has just renounced his peerage in order to stand for Parliament.

Though initially taken aback by the daughter he never knew he had, Dashwood quickly accepts her into his home and attempts to get to know her. However, his slimy political advisor (Jonathan Pryce) and his conniving fianceé (Anna Chancellor) have other ideas and they scheme to get Daphne sent back to the States.

All the usual London clichés are present and correct, the most laughable being that Dashwood supposedly lives in a vast country mansion that is handily situated in central London, a mere stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. In fact, the film is slightly obsessed with the Royal family, as the Queen and Princes Charles, Harry and William (or rather, their lookalikes) all make appearances for Comedy Purposes (Bynes falls off a catwalk into Charles’ lap, etc).

Teenage Target Audience

Based on the 1958 Rex Harrison / Sandra Dee movie The Reluctant Debutante, What A Girl Wants is very much in the mould of other fairytale movies such as The Princess Diaries. The target audience, then, is very much 8-15 year old girls, and maybe teenage boys with crushes on Bynes.

With that in mind, it’s still an enjoyable piece of fluff, largely thanks to Bynes herself, who gives a spirited, funny performance and should be a big star in the future. (The camera certainly loves her, judging by the unusually high number of close-ups in the movie).

The supporting cast are equally good – Firth can do this sort of thing in his sleep, but he genuinely puts the effort in and clearly enjoys the scenes where he gets to loosen up a bit. There’s also good support from newcomer Oliver James, who plays Daphne’s love interest.

In short, as fluffy fairytale movies go, What A Girl Wants is undoubtedly cheesy but still pretty enjoyable and should be a decent hit with its target audience.

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What A Girl Wants
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Content updated: 19/01/2020 11:37

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