What a Girl Wants

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 05/12/04 20:18:35

"As if it's DIFFICULT to ascertain what teenage girls 'want'?"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

This just in: "What a girl wants" is this: a charming and hunky long-lost British papa who is well-to-do and just clueless enough to let you get away with any stupid ol' thing you opt to do. Well, duh. Who wouldn't want that?

Yet another piece of teen-girl wish-fulfillment fluff of the most forgettable sort, What a Girl Wants tells the oft-told tale of fishes out of water and the grasses being always greener on the other continent. It might say Warner Bros. on the DVD cover, but this is the pure-bred Disney formula through and through. A retread in the wake of The Princess Diaries' box office success and a loose remake of Vincente Minnelli's 1958 The Reluctant Debutante, Dennie Gordon's limp little story goes nowhere slowly.

Cute 'n' perky Amanda Bynes (last seen in Big Fat Liar) stars as cute 'n' perky Daphne Reynolds, daughter to sadsack hot-mom Kelly Preston and long-absent British politician Colin Firth. One day Daphne decides to search England for her Papa and express her daughterhood. The ever-proper Henry Dashwood (Firth) sees nothing but scandal in his new daughter's arrival, but fatherly instinct kicks in and Daphne is invited to spend the summer.

If I told you that Daphne also inherits a devious soon-to-be-stepmother and a bitchy stepsister, would you find it shocking or just tiresome and obvious? I went with the latter. Plus Henry's political advisor is the evil stepsister's all gets kind of involved for throwaway treacle of this order.

So obviously the mean Brits will do whatever they can to sabotage the cute 'n' perky American newcomer. She will, of course, overcome their scheming disdain and forge a strong bond with her estranged father. It all takes a lot longer than it needs to, plus there are clumsy pratfalls, irritating "culture shock" gags, and even a dreaded example of the Impromptu Dance Number that we all just love so much.

There's some puppy-love romance, a handful of subplots that display the wonders of Free-Spirited American perkiness, more than a few musical montages that give a respite from the banal chatterings of all the characters, six or seven happy endings to keep the target audience appeased, and a paper-thin superficiality that threatens to turn the whole affair into a huge vat of vanilla icing.

Yeah, Amanda Bynes is a cute lil' thing and Colin Firth capably proves that he can salvage scenes in just about any old treacle-fest - but those are hardly reasons enough to endure this endlessly familiar Chickie Flick.

Those who appreciate it now will doubtlessly look back on it with stifled giggles and rolling eyes.

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