What a Girl Wants

What a Girl Wants

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th April 2003

Box Office USA: $36.0M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: DiNovi Pictures, Gaylord Films, Warner Bros Pictures


Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 68

IMDB: 5.8 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Daphne Reynolds, as Henry Dashwood, as Libby Reynolds, as Alistair Payne, as Ian Wallace

What a Girl Wants Review

Don't be fooled by the title. Despite being named after a Christina Aguilera song, What a Girl Wants is not a movie about a good-girl-turned-trashy-ho. Rather, it's the story of a sweet, all-American girl who generally enjoys her life but can't get past one thing: She's never met her father. As her high school days come to an end, young Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) decides it's time to meet this mysterious man who managed to woo her mother so many years ago, and so she throws her passport into her backpack and heads off to London.

What ensues is a standard fairy tale: Daphne quickly finds her father, Henry (Colin Firth), but is hindered in her attempt to forge a meaningful relationship thanks to an evil stepmother and debutante stepsister who are only interested in Henry's status and wealth. Fortunately, Daphne's got her American charm on her side and, with the help of her wise grandmother and cute new boyfriend, she's able to win Henry's heart and even manages to get him back together with mom. They all live happily ever after, as we are told at the end.

It's a fairly predictable plot, of course, but that is to be expected of the genre. What is less expected are the weak performances from the cast. Although Bynes is no stranger to acting--she has her own show on Nickelodeon--she seems to struggle with the right facial expression whenever the script calls for anything other than cute and peppy. Conversely, Oliver James deadpans when he should be playing the hurt and jealous boyfriend. And Jonathan Pryce, who appears as Henry's conniving advisor, is stuck with the sort of perpetually arched eyebrow that too easily marks him as the bad guy.

Other problems include a heavy reliance on montages--of people shopping, of driving through London, of trying on clothes--and a litany of tired jabs at the British. Certainly, lines like "I'm British--we only show affection to dogs and horses" are mildly amusing, but didn't Mike Myers already wear out such barbs in Austin Powers?

Perhaps the movie could have been saved if it had focused more on the budding relationship between Daphne and Henry. Sadly, a number of critical details are left out here. For instance, Daphne doesn't seem to bear any hard feelings toward her father nor does she want to ask him any serious questions despite the fact that he's been absent for 17 years, living in complete luxury while she and her mother must make do by singing and serving dinners at weddings. Likewise, Henry seems to accept Daphne as his daughter all too easily, giving what must be the most ridiculous paternity test in history: "She has my eyes," he explains. (Never mind that their eyes are different colors and shapes.)

On the upside, Bynes and Firth do have enough chemistry between them to pull off a final father-daughter dance that is not only touching but also critical in bringing the movie full circle. And Kelly Preston's role as a post-hippie mother works well to explain why Daphne has turned out the way she has. That the trio comes together in the end is not a surprise, but you're rooting for it nonetheless.

Additionally, the movie does deserve some kudos for its rejection of the standard teen-flick presumption that a makeover is the only thing standing between a girl who doesn't fit in and a girl who everyone wants to take to the prom (see She's All That, Never Been Kissed, etc.). Instead, What a Girl Wants suggests that going to great lengths to change yourself doesn't always make people like you, nor will it make you like yourself.

All in all, the message is refreshing but not quite worth the $9.50 dent that seeing What a Girl Wants will leave in your allowance. Personally, if it came down to a choice, I'd save my money for the Christina Aguilera album and wait until the movie comes out on video.

We're gonna have to eat off that table...