Colin Firth in Leather Trousers ... is that really what a girl wants?
No hugging, dear. I'm British. We only show affection to dogs and horses - Jocelyn Dashwood
Despite being an adaptation of William Douglas-Home's play "The Reluctant Debutante", "What a Girl Wants" fits solidly into the genre of fun, charming, obvious, fairytale not too un-similar to the likes of "The Princes Diaries" and "The Prince and Me" when it comes to being every young girl's fantasy. It's so similar that there are aspects to "What a Girl Wants" that feel almost generic must haves, required scenes to be included so it can be classed as another young girl's fairytale fantasy movie. But it also has a surprisingly good cast including Colin Firth and Sylvia Syms which make all the cutesy, gooey eyed fluff almost enjoyable, well for someone who really shouldn't be finding anything entertaining from a movie made for young girls.
Having grown up in New York with just her mother Libby (Kelly Preston - Jack Frost), Daphne (Amanda Bynes) has always wanted to meet her father, Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth - Hope springs) a British Lord, especially when ever she sees daughter's sharing a dance with their father's at the weddings she often waitresses at. So having turned 17 Daphne heads to Britain to meet her father who never knew she even existed, but with an election campaign in process and a wedding on the cards it may not be so easy to fit into her father's well to do life and family including the dog-doting Princess Charlotte (Sylvia Syms - Expresso Bongo).
So frankly the storyline to "What a Girl Wants" is as simple as they come, the young girl heading off to find her father who never knew she existed and so straight away delivering a possible happy ever after ending. Add to this that the father is a British Lord and perspective MP who is about to be married to a scheming social climber and who has an even more conniving social climbing daughter, which means not only do we get the fish out of water American in an overly British family but also skulduggery as certain people try to cause her to fail. I could go on and on including the romantic element of the handsome and charming young man, the quirky grandmother and much more because frankly the whole of "What a Girl Wants" feels very familiar and like so many other movies. Not that it's a criticism because the whole thing works together to provide an entertaining story for some comedy, romance and music.
What helps all these obvious story elements work is that "What a Girl Wants" is all good fun, maybe a little predictable in places but does bring a smile to your face. The humour is at a level that young children will find it amusing and coupled with all the cutesy fairytale stuff it works well. But as an adult there are elements which are just cringe worthy including an adhoc dance routine at Peach & Pear Orwood's coming out ball as well as Colin Firth squeezing into some tight leather trousers to strut his funky stuff. These things probably work to make younger audiences laugh and enjoy "What a Girl Wants" but they are a little, well there's no other word for it cringe worthy. So it has to be said the over all sickliness of it all as it ends up feeling completely sugar coated and bad for your teeth by the time it all ends.
But the thing which stands out is that the casting is for the most very good and in particular the obviously cute Amanda Bynes as Daphne Reynolds. Frankly I have no idea who Amanda Bynes is although I have learned she had her own show on Kiddie channel Nickelodeon, but the important thing is she is perfect as the main character. She comes across as fun loving, cute but with a touch of that mischievous feistiness that you want but she is equally good when she tries to tone it down to become a lady. It's the enthusiasm of her performance which hides any weaknesses and makes many an obvious scene a little bit entertaining.
Alongside Bynes you have Colin Firth playing her father and basically playing the bumbling awfully nice English man that we've seen him do so many times before and to be frank he does so well. But in a movie aimed at young girls his bumbling and awkwardness works well to make him funny and along with the willingness to make a prat of himself with the dancing in leather trousers scene actually made you laugh as well as cringe.
Aside from Bynes and Firth there are various recognizable faces such as Kelly Preston playing Daphne's free willed mother, Jonathan Pryce as the slightly over the top scheming Alistair Payne and the always wonderful Sylvia Syms as Princess Charlotte. Although there are a couple of cringe worthy performances most notably from Oliver James as the charming young Ian. It's a weak character which floats in and out which doesn't help matters nor does James's attempt at a cockney accent, although he does have a very good singing voice performing many of the memorable song and dance numbers himself including the James Brown number.
What this all boils down to is that "What a Girl Wants" is every inch a fluffy fairytale movie aimed at a young audience full of girls. But it is pleasant and manages to turn several obvious elements and comedy into a fun entertaining but not overly memorable movie. It's the sort of movie that if your young daughter wanted to watch you wouldn't find it completely devoid of fun.
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