What a Girl Wants

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) lives a comfortable but unsatisfying life as a young American girl with a bright future. She has never met her father, who left her mother Libby (Kelly Preston) seventeen years ago because his family disapproved of their relationship.

Daphne flies to London to connect with her father, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who has given up his seat in the House of Lords to run for election to the House of Commons. Lord Dashwood embraces the opportunity to reconnect with his daughter, but her appearance causes a controversy that endangers his political ambitions. Daphne tries to win the acceptance of her father’s social circle but is opposed by his fiancée and step-daughter.

Ultimately, Daphne rejects her new self because it is not who she is. She returns to America, but Henry goes to find her and reconcile with her mother.


Well, as per tradition, every birthday comes with an Amanda Bynes film. Unfortunately, What a Girl Wants will be the last of these. Two reasons have caused me to do this. First, she’s lost her damn mind! Second, I’ve watched them all. Now, with that out of the way, what say we talk about this little daddy-daughter reunion flick, shall we?

What is this about?

American Daphne heads to Europe in search of the father she’s never met. But instead of finding a British version of her bohemian mother, she learns the love of her mom’s life is an uptight politician engaged to a fiercely territorial social climber.

What did I like?

Before the madness. My, my, my how far Amanada Bynes has fallen. We hear the stories of her various exploits today and you’d never know that there is some actual talent still in there somewhere. Take this film, for instance, she shows a great range as a young comedic actress who can pull off some drama if she wants. Someone compared here to Lucille Ball. I won’t go that far, but you can see why the comparison was made, because without her comedic instincts, I don’t think this film would have worked in the ways it did.

Daddy. The real heart of this film lies in the relationship between Bynes and the father she never knew. A man who apparently is of Royal blood, or at least some kind of political birth, in England, played by Colin Firth. I really appreciated how they didn’t have is character ignore her, but rather, he embraced her as his daughter, even though she was this strange American who randomly showed up. It was like he knew that she was his. The chemistry between the two as father and daughter is pretty nice and helped make it believable, as well.

What didn’t I like?

Feel. I could be mistaken, but I believe this was Bynes’ first feature film as a star. That being said, it didn’t quite feel like it was written for her. One critic said that it was “a sanitized adventure for the Mary Kate-and-Ashley set”, and it does feel like one of those direct-to-video Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. Things were just too clean. I mean, this might as well have been a Disney movie, but even then it might have been too pristine.

Rival. I’ve noticed something in just about every film, TV show, etc. When there is a rivalry between two people, they tend to have different hair colors. Just an observation, sorry. So, as you can imagine with a picture like this, there is a rivalry between Daphne (Bynes), and the soon to be princess. Here’s the thing about it, though. I felt as if that should have been a bigger part of the film, maybe even taking the forefront. Instead, it was ancillary. I think it could have been taken out and we wouldn’t have noticed. What a way to have an antagonist for our protagonist, eh?

Marketing. This is just an idea, but doesn’t it seem like this film could have easily capitalized on its title by using Christina Aguilera’s mega-hit of the same name? The reception and reviews, as well as the box-office draw weren’t exactly stellar, although it did pen #2 and earned a decent amount of $$$. Using that song might have helped. Yes, I realize there are copyright issues and whatnot, but hey, it was just an idea.

My first thought when I heard What a Girl Wants was a teen comedy is that it was going to be a kiddie version of What Women Want. Truthfully, that may have been the better route to take. Bynes and Firth shine brightly and Kelly Preston does what she can, but the rest on this film seems to be trying to had to recreate the magic of The Princess Diaries, and doing so very badly. That being said, the father-daughter storyline is really what makes this film work, along with Bynes’ comedy, but they aren’t enough to keep the film going for nearly 2 hrs. This is a good Saturday afternoon film with the girls flick, but noting else.

3 out of 5 stars


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