Susan Granger's review of "What A Girl Wants" (Warner Bros.)
If you're a teenage star like Amanda Bynes, what you want is a deliciously delightful romantic comedy like this. While adults might not recognize her name, Bynes is familiar to kids and teens from her role in Nickelodeon's "All That" and "The Amanda Show" and, recently, the sitcom "What I Like About You." Here she plays Daphne, a 17 year-old New Yorker who lives in a 5th floor walk-up in Chinatown. She yearns to meet the father she's never known, an English aristocrat whom her bohemian mother (Kelly Preston) met and married in the Moroccan desert but left once she realized she could never feel comfortable in his elegant, upper-crust society.
"I feel like half of me is missing, so how can I know who I am?" Daphne wails. So, unbeknownst to her mother, she takes off for London, where she, literally, appears on her unsuspecting father's doorstep. At first, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth) is stunned but then intrigued by his irrepressibly bubbly American daughter - much to the chagrin of his snobbish fiancée (Anna Chancellor) and her snotty debutante daughter (Christina Cole). Daphne's only ally is her grandmother (Eileen Atkins) who nevertheless cautions, "No hugs, dear, we're British. We only show affection to dogs and horses." Then there's Ian (Oliver James), a perceptive musician who asks: "Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you're born to stand out?" The Cinderella screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler is reminiscent of Sandra Dee's "The Reluctant Debutante" (1958), as director Dennie Gordon capitalizes on irresistible Amanda Bynes' flair for physical comedy. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "What A Girl Wants" is a bright, beguiling, tart 'n' tender 8. What a girl wants for fun is a rockin' date movie like this!
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