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What A Girl Wants (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

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 egg.

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 she’s 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 Gordon’s 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 wouldn’t be so unforgivable had the film’s 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 director’s 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.

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