It's fun to remember where child stars got their start. Amanda Bynes, I'm afraid, was dealt the short end of the stick in that respect... The first recollection I have of her was as a loudmouth letter-reader sitting on a bed in All That. It may have been the single most obnoxious skit I've ever seen, and this is coming from a guy who worked on a Scout camp staff for a summer and has sat through marathons of Saturday Night Live.
I'd quickly written Bynes off as a talentless non-prodigy, a girl who might, if lucky, grow up to be a forgettable character actor on SNL. Then came Big Fat Liar
, where she starred opposed Frankie Muniz. Though the film was little more than a commercial for Universal Studios, Amanda made me wonder if I was a little too quick to judge.
Now she takes center stage in What a Girl Wants
... and the jury's still out.
You probably have already guessed it from the trailers, but the story behind What a Girl Wants
is anything but original. Daphne Reynolds (Bynes) is a teenage girl who discovers her long lost father (Colin Firth) is a British nobleman and politician. Throw in all the clichés--conniving fiancées and step-daughters-to-be, scrappy boyfriends, traitorous advisors, and stiff Brits dancing to rock music--and you have this film. It's Cinderella
meets The Parent Trap
However, the concept is redeemed thanks to some responsible filmmaking. To make up for the trite and overdone plot, director Dennie Gordon and her crew brought in some notable supporting talent: Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, and Jonathan Pryce, among others. Firth and Preston and particular give some levity and realism to the film, making it seem a bit less like a fairy tale.
And then there's Amanda Bynes. She's still obnoxious, and her acting talent is still questionable. But in the years since her first skit on All That, she's grown quite charming, and that allows her better qualities to shine. She's spunky and fun; she'll have no problem carving out an audience, of teenage boys if nothing else.
But there is something there for older viewers, as well. The compeling performances on behalf of the adult cast, as well as some old-fashioned, '70s style music & fashion, should keep parents from dozing off.
What a Girl Wants
is a fun film. It's not really a movie to see in theatres, but it will make a great rental to watch at home with the 2.4 children. It's one of those rare family-safe films these days that don't come off as condescending or childish to grown-ups.