|It’s been a happy life for the most part
for musician Libby (Preston) and her 17-year-old daughter
Daphne (Bynes). Living a bohemian life in NYC, the mother
and daughter are chummy in their tight-knit two person family.
Except Daphne feels like part of her is missing and that
part is her estranged father, Lord Henry Dashwood (Firth).
You see, years before, Libby and Henry were separated by a
misunderstanding, and Libby went back to America, pregnant
and alone, while Henry stayed in England and inherited an
aristocratic life of British politics.
Inspired by a father/daughter dance she sees while waitressing
at a wedding, Daphne decides at the beginning of What
a Girl Wants to leave home and surprise her noble
father in England. She’s feeling the angst of being a recent
high school graduate, so she sets off for London, leaving
only a goodbye message on the answering machine for her mom.
Daddy’s deep in a political campaign though, and slightly
taken aback by the fact that he even has a daughter. His menacing
fiancée and her snotty daughter connive to ruin the daughter/father
reunion to ensure that their places in high society don’t
get one-upped by a silly American. But they don’t get very
far, or rather, they don’t have to.
The paparazzi have a field day upon discovering that Henry’s
newfound daughter, a free-spirited and beautiful young American,
serves as excellent gossip fodder for the London elite. And
fodder she is, as she traipses down runways in – gasp! – jeans
instead of a ball gown and single-handedly turns a dull debutante
ball into a rock ‘n’ roll fiesta. After all these innocent
debacles, Lord Henry himself urges Daphne to change her personality
And after a string of coming-out balls and garden parties,
Daphne is transformed into a stuffy, proper British belle,
just like daddy ordered.
In the end, however, Daphne realizes that trading her identity
for a relationship with her father isn’t worth the effort.
(But don’t worry – there’s a happy ending of course.)
This movie slightly resembles last year’s The Princess
Diaries – but then again, most romantic comedies are
creepily similar and originality isn’t usually their main
selling strategy. However, Colin Firth is charming as the
father and Kelly Preston can really belt out a song or two
if need be – impressive on both fronts.
Although most adults sans children would not pay to see What
a Girl Wants, any 12-year-old girl could easily fall
in love with the coming-of-age storyline and hunky British
accents. Amanda Bynes takes charge in her starring performance,
and does justice to young actresses everywhere – that is,
she expertly balances sweet, funny and clueless, and doesn’t
tip over into cheesy that often. She serves up a nice plate
of pre-teen fun and you can’t really ask for anything more
out of a movie like this.
—Sandra M. Ogle