3 Stars
Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 100 minutes
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Ah, the return of the classic cinematic makeover. You know the one, a lass of incongruity or superficial ugliness, is suddenly altered into something of magnetic beauty and promise. Julia Roberts went from high-class hooker to elegant gown adorner, Anne Hathaway had her hair straightened and found herself crowned Queen of Genova and Freddie Prinze Jr. removed the specs and undid the pony tail of Rachel Leigh Cook to mold that year’s prom queen.
In “What a Girl Wants,” it’s not a conversion from ugly duckling to glistening swan that’s so much the case, but more a change of protocol and behavioral blueprint that the lead youngster has to endure.
Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) has always wanted to meet her estranged father, whom her mother Libby (Kelly Preston) shared a whirlwind romance with 17 years prior. The romance ended when his aristocratic family had the unsuitable Libby exorcised from the high-class circle.
Determined to live out her fantasy of forging a fairytale relationship with her long-absent Dad, Daphne hops a plane to London where she quickly discovers her father is high profile politician Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth).
Henry ultimately opens his front door to the daughter he never knew existed, which ends up having repercussions on his high-standing political position. Seems Daphne is just too skittish and typically teenage for the elite crowd. But with a splash of shampoo and a change of clothes, Lord Henry soon finds himself with a changed daughter, one he can truly show off to the royal crowds he floats in.
But inevitably Daphne realizes that the change hasn’t been for the good, and although she wants to be her father’s daughter, decides it’s not worth it if she can’t be herself.
Will daddy come around?
Of Course he will, and you know that within the film’s first meeting between daddy and daughter. In fact, most of the film is as predictable as cats near a river. But as much of a rip-off as the film is – dating way back to the similar “The Reluctant Debutante”, released in 1959 starring Sandra Dee and Rex Harrison and to much more contemporary classics – it’s still an enjoyable outing.
Having already established herself on television and also recently on film with a role in the comedy Big Fat Liar, Amanda Bynes proves herself to be quite the comedienne, intertwining a performance of physical shtick and cutesy gesticulation. She’s definitely one to watch.
In addition, British actor Colin Firth proves the perfect choice for the role of the high-class politician, suddenly softened when he discovers he has a teenage daughter.
It’s the charming performances of Bynes and Firth that’ll keep older viewers interested. I’m sure they won’t be half as interested in the cute boys, pop music and pretty dresses that the film is also littered with, but young teenage girls will, and that’s plainly who this film is aimed at.
So while this is far from an avant-garde, ingenious flick, it uses a dependable formula that’ll definitely deliver “What a Girl Wants.”

Posted on April 1, 2003 in Reviews by

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