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What A Girl Wants

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: What A Girl Wants

Starring: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth
Director: Dennie Gordon
Rated: G
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: April 2003
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Kelly Preston, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Eileen Atkins, Roger Ashton-Griffiths

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

We all know that given a choice, the whole world would like to live like Americans. In Iraq didn't the soldiers all throw down their weapons and the crowd deck the Marines with flowers and candy? Not quite. In fact the current mixed response of the Iraqi people makes us sit up and consider that not everyone thinks like us. Take the French for example. (Please.) Nonetheless, there is evidence that at least the British want to be like those of us who reside in the 50 states. Just look at Dennie Gordon's movie, "What a Girl Wants," which is there to convince the target market of 9- to 15-year old girls that underneath the skin, everyone in London is a Yankee itching to crawl out. Target market notwithstanding, "What a Girl Wants" could be just the kind of movie that many others want given our current difficult times and despite its utter predictability and formulaic resolution to every plot turn, Amanda Bynes (from The Amanda Show on TV) holds up the 104 minutes just fine. She's awfully cute and hasn't a dishonest bone in her body, mischievous though she may be at times.

William Douglas Home's play from which this movie has been freely adapted was made into a film by Vicente Minnelli starring Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall in 1958, more of a drawing-room comedy than this less subtle version, but just as Rex and Kay made the 45-year-old pic enjoyable enough so does Amanda with the help of handsome Colin Firth as an articulate politician who loses his ability to speak eloquently when in the presence of a 17- year-old daughter he had never before seen.

This Cinderella fable introduces the ebullient teen Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) to the lap of luxury, inspired by a story told by her hippie-ish mom Libby (Kelly Preston) of the upper- class boyfriend in London who apparently ditched her before Daphne was born. (To keep the PG rating, Libby and her man got informally married in a Bedouin ceremony in Morocco though the legality is in question.) Curious Libby, who like every normal love child wants to know her biological father, goes to London, where showing right off that she's got spunk does not try too hard to enter her dad's estate legally but instead climbs the wall (before making everyone else do the same). Confronting dad, Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), she works her charm on him sufficiently to allow him to think of his long-lost girlfriend and to move away from the clutches of his greedy fianc and her conniving daughter, both of whom are eager to fit into his rising political career.

"What a Girl Wants" has its poignant moments alternating with uninspired slapstick (Daphne frequently takes a pratfall especially when trying to act like a lady, ha ha) but Gordon's film has its moments, particularly when Lady Jocelyn (Eileen Atkins) advises the youngster, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" We can see Jocelyn's disappointment: though living in the estate she believes her life could have been far happier if she were just an ordinary Brit downing ale in the local bar.

Does Daphne find an English boyfriend who, like Jocelyn, tells her to stop acting snooty and to be herself? Does Henry get together with Libby, neither of whom had found partners despite the passage of 17 years? Don't think too hard. Just take "What a Girl Wants" for what it is, a pleasant enough diversion with lots of charm and firepower from the gifted Amanda Bynes.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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