Loosely based on The Reluctant Debutante (1958) starring Sandra Dee, this family-friendly comedy features popular Nickelodeon teen star Amanda Bynes in her first feature-starring performance after her debut in Big Fat Liar (2002). She plays teenager Daphne Reynolds, who lives in New York City with her musician mother, Libby Reynolds (Kelly Preston). After she turns seventeen, Daphne is undecided about her future, so she takes off by herself to London in search of her father. She immediately meets cute musician Ian Wallace (Oliver James) before sneaking in to her father's estate to surprise him. He turns out to be Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), a fabulously wealthy aristocrat who doesn't even know that she exists. He had met her mother in Morocco and the two were married in a tribal ceremony. Upon their return to England, she left him and went back to the U.S. without ever revealing that she was pregnant. The uptight Henry is already flustered by his campaign for election, advised ...
I went into the theater today expecting a good movie. I was wrong. Why was I wrong? Because this was a GREAT movie!!!
The trailers made this film look INSANELY cheesy. Since I know from experience that trailers are highly inaccurate, I was expecting a PARTIALLY cheesy flick. But what I saw had almost no cheese to it at all. What A Girl Wants, despite its unfortunate title, is what a LOT of people want, combining drama, comedy, romance, and self-discovery in an hour and 45 minutes of enjoyment.
I didn't say insight, mind you, I said self-discovery. This is purely a narrative, not a deep thought movie, and it wouldn't have worked any other way. Kudos to Dennie Gordon for not trying to accent a theme that we're already familiar with, rather, she just throws it into the story, almost casually, so that we see the message of individuality but aren't repulsed by an overly blatant moral.
Many of this film's detractors say that it's a rip of The Princess Diaries. Not true. Yes, it's an adaptation, but it's based on "The Reluctant Debutante", which was around for DECADES before Diaries was even conceived. Besides, while it is a little formulaic, there are a few twists.
Many say it portrays inaccurate American/British stereotypes. Not true. Daphne and her mother are CLEARLY presented to be NOTHING like the average American, and Lord Dashwood only behaves so properly because of his political position.
Amanda Bynes as Daphne Reynolds finally gets a chance to show of her incredible dramatic skills. (Moody's Point had too much of a satirical tone to properly show this.) Bynes has her glory moments of comedy alongside her touching moments as the girl who wants to understand who she is.
Colin Firth as Henry Dashwood. Come on, who didn't already know Firth kicks butt? He is the center of every scene Bynes isn't in, and he carries that weight well.
Eileen Atkins as Lady Dashwood does a tremendous job with her supporting role, who is far more crucial to the plot than anyone expected.
Oliver James handles his theatrical debut well, showing much more emotion than the previews indicated. Libby Reynolds isn't a fully round character, but that's the script's fault, not Kelly Preston's. Both are capable singers, and considering that Bynes's one major performance flaw is lack of musical ability, I'm glad these two sang instead of her.
In fact, basically the entire cast here was superb.
See it, you'll be glad you did. Fine entertainment for almost everybody.
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