Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer; Commentary with director Dennie
Gordon and Amanda Byrne; Fashion & Etiquette 101; What's a
Girl to Wear - interactive challenge; Additional scenes; Easter
THE opportunity of starring in a glitzy Hollywood fantasy must
have seemed like a dream come true for American TV star, Amanda
Bynes (of Nickelodeon fame), but, alas, it turns into an excruciating
nightmare for anyone who dares to see it.
Inspired by the fairy tale charm of the 1958 Sandra Dee/Rex Harrison
romantic comedy, The Reluctant Debutante, What A Girl Wants, is
a sickly sweet fluff piece that is likely to leave you feeling
nauseous, rather than heart-warmed in any way.
Bynes stars as 17-year-old Daphne Reynolds, a spirited American
teen who would appear to have everything she could possibly wish
for, except the father shes never known - a man who shared
a whirlwind romance with her bohemian mother, Libby (Kelly Preston),
17 years ago, before his aristocratic family conspired to get
rid of her because of a perceived unsuitability.
The father in question is high-profile politician, Lord Henry
Dashwood (Colin Firth), who is forced to open his life and calendar
to the daughter he never knew existed when she travels to London
to meet him, a move which ultimately threatens to undermine his
political aspirations and force him to decide between his ambition
and his heart.
Told right, such wish-fulfilment fantasies can be charming, uplifting
affairs, particularly for the young at heart, yet Dennie Gordons
wretched movie never comes close to finding the right balance
between the hopeless sentiment on show and its desire to appeal
to the MTV crowd.
Attempts to generate laughs by highlighting Anglo/US differences,
meanwhile, are quite simply embarrassing, as the movie seems content
to play to stereotype rather than infusing proceedings with anything
original or inspiring - the Yanks are footloose and fancy-free
with a zest for life, while the Brits are portrayed as a bunch
of wacky eccentrics, with no charm or charisma whatsoever.
Firth looks uncomfortable throughout, stammering even less successfully
than a latter-day Hugh Grant and noticeably squirming as the plot
calls for some hopeless self-ridicule, while the likes of Jonathan
Pryce and Anna Chancellor merely conform to the conventions of
the genre, appearing as the pantomime villains of the piece.
All of which wouldnt be so unforgivable had the films
star, Bynes, made any sort of impact, which she singularly fails
to do. Described in the publicity as a vibrant personality,
it is hard to think of a more insipid heroine - ill-served by
a lacklustre script, the directors pop-promo tendencies
and an inability to act with anything other than a raised eyebrow.
Gordon seems to want nothing more than a pretty face; someone
he can dress up at every opportunity without having to rely on
any ability whatsoever, and, as a result, his film is found wanting.
As far as wish-fulfilment goes, mine would be that I never have
to sit through such manufactured rubbish ever again.