Little girls love fairytales, and the producers of “What a Girl Wants” are hoping to capitalize on this fact. In this Cinderella-esque tale, a free spirited, teenaged Daphne Reynolds – Amanda Bynes of the preteen Nickelodeon show “All That” – goes to meet her father, Lord Henry Dashwood – Colin Firth of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” – for the first time in England. Daphne’s mother – “Battlefield Earth’s” Kelly Preston – had a groovy, hippie affair with Lord Henry in 1970s Morocco, but it didn’t work out, thus explaining Cinderella and mom’s exile in Chinatown, New York.
When Daphne goes to Lord Henry’s opulent English manor/castle, she clashes with evil stepmother-to-be, Glynnis and even more vicious stepsister-to-be, Clarissa – Christina Cole.
The battlegrounds for many of Daphne’s fights for her father’s affection and the esteem of British society are debutante balls and dress shows – a sort of high class British meat market for women. And while there is a requisite love interest for our Cinderella/Daphne, this fairytale’s true Prince Charming is her papa, Lord Henry.
This movie definitely deserves the term ‘chick-flick’, as the few men who came to see the movie left disgusted midway through when the lines “I love you a million Swedish fish…no I love you a million red M&Ms…” were uttered.
Actually a better term for “What a Girl Wants” is ‘baby chick-flick,’ as I absolutely cannot imagine any girl over the age of 15 wanting to pay $7 to see this film. The film is technically a remake of Vincente Minelli’s “The Reluctant Debutante” starring Angela Lansbury, Rex Harrison and Sandra Dee, but it also has elements of “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries.” However Amanda Bynes is no Julia Roberts.
While Bynes may be a passable heroine/role model for some kids, she fails to impress the college crowd – Bynes is more appropriate for the students of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson school.
Movie stars aside, “What a Girl Wants” is not a particularly inventive form of the Cinderella fairytale. The emotional scenes in the film are unfailingly cheesy and the dialogue is so predictable that the audience anticipated lines word for word minutes before the characters even had the chance to speak them.
The lack of finesse in storytelling is not really much of a shock however, as director Dennie Gordon’s only previous feature film was the critical flop “Joe Dirt.” However, armed with low expectations, some red M&Ms and Swedish fish, you just might be able to squeeze a laugh or two out of “What a Girl Wants.”
An interesting note – in the first run of the “What a Girl Wants” ad campaign, Daphne is shown giving the peace symbol, but due to anticipated controversy related to the peace sign’s possible anti-war interpretations, that advertising has been altered to remove the peace sign.
Fong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.