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
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
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 d‚j… 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
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.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes