Directed by Dennie Gordon, starring Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Anna Chancellor, Tom Harper, Christina Cole, Jonathan Pryce and Oliver James.
'What a Girl Wants', like the forthcoming 'Lizzie Maguire: The Movie', is an updated fairytale aimed squarely at the 'tweenage generation. This new target demographic, recently identified by marketing moguls, is aged from nine to 14, very much brand-aware - and, most importantly, has enough disposable income to make films like 'Crossroads' and 'Agent Cody Banks' a financial success. Starring the 17-year-old Amanda Bynes, already familiar to 'tween audiences from her Nickelodeon shows, 'What a Girl Wants' fits comfortably into this market.
Just turned 17, perky American teenager Daphne (Bynes) travels to London to track down her long lost father. He just happens to be Lord Henry Dashwood (Firth), an ambitious politician on the cusp of being elected to parliament, described by his campaign manager as "young, thrusting, idealistic and of impeccable reputation". Or was, until Daphne, the daughter he never knew he had, lands - literally - on his doorstep.
Poised to marry the snooty Glynnis Payne (Chancellor, best known for her memorable turn as 'Duckface' in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral') and gain an even snootier stepdaughter (Cole), Henry's life is thrown into disarray when he invites Daphne to spend the summer in London. Cue plenty of energetic American charm vs stuffy stiff upper lip banalities as Daphne cuts a swathe through London society, even unintentionally landing on the lap of a bemused Prince Charles at a fashion show debacle.
It's wish fulfilment at its very best as Daphne stands up to her evil wannabe stepmother and sister, livens up the British upper crust, learns to be true to herself, wins the heart of her father and reunites her parents - there's even a down-to-earth, unthreatening boyfriend (James) who loves taking her on shopping trips.
While this may be enjoyable for the target audience, it's cliché central for those accompanying the little darlings. The only ray of light is Colin Firth's performance as the uptight but compassionate Lord Henry Dashwood and there's a particularly delicious moment when he's caught unabashedly wriggling into a pair of tight leather trousers for some air guitar action. Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce also give sterling support to a flimsy and occasionally downright silly plot.
Saccharine sweet, predictable and safe, 'What a Girl Wants' gives 'tweens exactly what they're looking for but there's very little appeal (Colin Firth aside) there for anyone else.