WHAT A GIRL WANTS A film review by Steve Rhodes Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes RATING (0 TO ****): ** 1/2
WHAT A GIRL WANTS has actors with more charisma than its lackluster script deserves. BIG FAT LIAR's Amanda Bynes plays Daphne Reynolds, a spunky and likeable 17-year-old. Director Dennie Gordon (JOE DIRT) has her falling whenever possible, which is often. A real trooper, Bynes keeps on smiling through pratfall after pratfall. If the director wants slapstick, she'll do her best to do whatever is asked of her. Watching her is a mixture of respect for her courage under fire and embarrassment that they wasted such a talented young actress.
If you feel like you've seen her character before, Sandra Dee played the part in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in 1958. Both films are based on a play by William Douglas Home.
It falls to Colin Firth (BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY), as Lord Henry Dashwood, to try to save the movie with his grace and style. As always, he is magnificent, but saving this film isn't really possible.
Daphne is the American daughter that Henry never knew he had. When she comes for a visit, he is shocked but quickly integrates her into his plans for the summer, which include his running for government office in Britain. Of course, she's a rambunctious teenager not used to reserved British sophistication. In the movie's only decent line, Henry's mother (Eileen Atkins) explains to Daphne, "No hugs dear. I'm British. We only show affection to dogs and horses."
More typical of the fake dialog is the wacky affirmation of affection that passes between Daphne and her mother, Libby (Kelly Preston). "I love you a million Swedish fish," says the mom. "I love you a million red M&Ms," replies the daughter. Ugh.
The story becomes something of a Cinderella story, complete with an evil step-sister, played lamely by Christina Cole. When you see the movie's big dance number, you'll get a déjà vu feeling since it is very similar to the one in the just released HEAD OF STATE. The story's low point occurs in the last act, when it awkwardly and unconvincingly tries to shift gears to serious and melancholic.
If you can just ignore the clunky picture that they are stuck in and watch Bynes and Firth at work, you may still have a good time. They do try to make the very best of a bad situation. Just try to imagine what they could have done with material worthy of them.
WHAT A GIRL WANTS runs 1:44. It is rated PG for "mild language" and would be acceptable for all ages.
My son Jeffrey, almost 14, gave it ***. He likened the film to THE PRINCESS DIARIES, a film he once had on an infinite loop in his room. He especially liked Bynes's acting.
The film opens nationwide in the United States today, Friday, April 4, 2003. In the Silicon Valley, it is showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.
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