1 hour 40 minutes
Amanda Bynes, Kelly Preston, Colin Firth,
Anna Chancellor, Eileen Atkins, Jonathan Pryce, Christina
Denise DiNovi, Bill Gerber, Hunt Lowry
Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler
BASED ON THE PLAY:
The Reluctant Debutante
by William Douglas Home
Warner Brothers Pictures
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What a Girl Wants
By Elliott Ryan
- What a Girl Wants is a movie that is aimed at a specific
audience. It occurred to me as I watched the film that I was not a
part of that audience. Adolescents and teenage girls will find many
things to like about this movie. If you aren't a part of that audience,
all bets are off. Not that I would encourage betting.
This movie is a sweet, romantic Cinderella story about Daphne Reynolds
(played by Amanda Bynes), an American girl who goes to England to
see her father whom she has never met. While this hardly original
story calls to mind several other movies with similar plots that have
been released over the years, it is in fact based on a 1956 play by
William Douglas Home entitled "The Reluctant Debutante."
Daphne's mother (Libby, played by Kelly Preston) is a wedding singer
in New York. After graduating from high school, Daphne accompanies
her mother to wedding parties and works as a waitress while her mom
performs with the band. During the father-daughter dances at these
weddings, Daphne yearns for meeting her own father, a British politician.
Eventually, Daphne decides to make an unannounced visit to her father,
Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who doesn't even know she exists.
After meeting his daughter, Dashwood and his mother grow very fond
of their new-found relation. Dashwood's snooty fiance and step-daughter-to-be
resent her and attempt to make her stay very uncomfortable. Dashwood's
political advisers, who ran Daphne's mother off seventeen years before,
try their best to get Daphne away from Dashwood before the scandal
can damage his political career.
The movie is quite funny in parts and consistently cute throughout.
Perhaps too cute for some of us who are not part of the intended audience.
There are a good number of jokes aimed at snooty members of the British
upper crust. The usual scenes of the typical American teen struggling
to fit in with British nobility abound, as they do in other movies
of this type. Perhaps, I would have found them humorous had I not
seen them before in several other movies.
However, at the heart of this movie is a very good message. It places
a high value on fatherhood and family. Daphne realizes how important
it is to her to have a father in her life. In fact, throughout her
entire childhood she repeatedly wished for her father to enter her
life. And in the end, her father realizes how important it is for
him to be a part of his daughter's life.
The movie also communicates that family is more important than career.
It could damage Dashwood's political career to admit that he had a
family in America that he never even knew he had. He has to decide
between fulfilling his responsibilities as a father and pursuing further
political success. In the end, he makes the right choice.
The movie is very well-acted. Bynes, star of "The Amanda Show"
on Nickelodeon, carries the lead role well. She is helped along by
a cast of veteran actors who turn in performances that are as good
as they can be with the material they are working with (in addition
to Firth and Preston: Eileen Atkins, Jonathan Price, and Anna Chancellor).
If you are looking for a movie for the whole family, this would be
an excellent choice. There is very little that is objectionable about
this PG-rated movie. Perhaps the most objectionable thing would be
the fact that Dashwood and Libby had a baby out of wedlock. Maybe.
See, they were sort of married at the time... Nevermind, it is too
hard to explain. Perhaps they were married all along. It is hard to
tell. But this modern-day fairy tale is for the most part squeaky
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