Director: Dennie Gordon
Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce
Released: April 4, 2003
Let me rank all the things titled "What a Girl Wants" I've come across in my life:
1. Boutique in Langely, Washington. Back in 2004 when my cousin got married on Whidbey Island, my mom, my aunt, her daughter, and I would visit this shop daily because it was within walking distance from the inn we were staying at. (I think everything was in walking distance, though). This shop was accurately named as it has clothes, jewelry, accessories, knickknacks, pretty much everything was pink and girly. Now I'm not a girly girl but even I oohed and ached over this shop. We spent a lot of time (and money!) in that store. My cousin bought a brown leather bag with a cat on it and a black top with a white collar and I bought a black tote bag with pink lining and a pink poodle holding an umbrella on it, a matching coin purse (I don't particularly like poodles, but I guess I thought it was super cute and had to have it!), a pink oval alarm clock with a black cat on it, a white top with a boat neckline and a ribbon around the collar and a black top with sleeves that had black laces. The only things I still have are the tote bag and coin purse.
2. Christina Aguilera song. If this were my favorite song of hers, it would rank #1, but it's not, though it's certainly in the top tier. The only thing that could have made the What a Girl Wants boutique in Whidbey Island better is if they had "What a Girl Wants" playing on a loop. Every time you say "What a Girl Wants" in whatever context, you have to sing it to the tune of the song, am I right?
3. This movie. Just because I have this ranked last doesn't mean I didn't like it, but it also means I don't love it. It's also ranked last because I don't understand why the movie has the title it does. At least it makes sense the Whidbey Island boutique and Christina Aguilera song being called "What a Girl Wants." It just seems like a generic title for the movie and there had to be a better title for it. They don't even play the Christinas Aguilera song in the movie. What's up with that?
Good on Colin Firth for being a good sport to be in a movie that's (barely) one step above a tween movie that you would see on the Disney Channel. Of course, this was years before he won his Oscar for The King's Speech, heck, it was even before Love, Actually, which is the first thing I knew him from. Oh, wait, I guess he was in Bridget Jones's Diary, but to be fair I've only seen that movie once and I've seen Love, Actually at least ten times. I will still sometimes say "Just in cases" randomly. Looking at his IMDb, he was also in Shakespeare in Love, but I definitely do not remember him in that! The only thing I literally remember from that movie is Gwyneth Paltrow spinning around in her corset and saying, "It is a new day" and that probably isn't even right!
Also in this movie is Amanda Bynes. Oh, yes, remember her? She's a former child star who has gone through some rough patches. I remember her from her All That days. God, she was annoying in that show, wasn't she? Granted, she was like, what? Seven, eight, nine? She was in a handful of movies in the mid 2000s and she always seemed to play the same character (wacky, outspoken), though I only saw this one and She's The Man, so I could be wrong. She plays a seventeen-year-old girl named Daphne who lives in New York with her mom, Libby (Kelly Preston). Daphne really wants to meet her father who doesn't even know she exists. We know the backstory of her parents is that her mother, a free-spirited wedding singer (who can't particularly sing very well) met Henry Dashwood (the guy Colin Firth plays) when they were both in Morocco and fell in love and got married, though its uncertain if they were actually legally married. He brings her back to England so they can get married for real, but she doesn't quite fit in with his rich, uptight family and leaves. He never knew she was pregnant.
Henry thinks Libby left because there was someone else and Libby left because she thinks it's what Henry wanted.
She checks into a hostel and meets a boy named Ian who works there as one of his many day jobs. Right away you know the movie is setting them up for a romance, even though it isn't needed. I understand why they want to give Daphne an ally while she's in London, but the romance part seemed forced.
Henry is running for Prime Minister and Daphne sees him on TV and learns that he is getting married to a woman who has a daughter about Daphne's age. I really thought Daphne was going to try to break them up, but if anything, its the mother, Glynnis (Anna Chancellor), and daughter, Clarissa who are trying to make Daphne leave.
Daphne only has a photo of her father from the eighties, but she seems to know exactly where he lives. I guess since he's a well-known member of society, it was easy finding his home (not to mention it's a huge manor). Instead of going through the front (guarded) gates and asking to speak to him, she decides it would be more fun to sneak in through the back and go over a brick wall and into the garden maze. I guess this is done for comedy purposes as Glynnis and Clarissa are sitting in the kitchen and Clarissa keeps seeing flashes of what she believes is a "large bird". At one point, Daphne stands directly in front of the window and Clarissa screams and clearly sees a human has intruded upon their grounds. Henry thinks it's the paparazzi and calls security, which prompts Daphne to run away. Seriously, what was her plan here? They will call back to this scene later in the film when Daphne and Henry are trying to get away from the paparazzi who are in front of the house, so Daphne has him climb over the back gates, so I guess in the context it makes sense.
Henry catches her and demands to know which paper she's working for and Daphne springs the surprise on him that she's his daughter. She also does this in front of Glynnis, Clarissa, and Henry's mother, Jocelyn (Eileen Atkins), the first two who are scandalized. They let Daphne stay at their house (it's not like they don't have enough rooms to spare!) and Daphne claims her room is bigger than her apartment back home, which is true. She gives Jocelyn a hug who recoils and tells her, "I'm British. We only show affection to dogs and horses." I'm not British, so maybe that's why this joke went over my head. Henry calls Libby to tell her that Daphne is with him. It's a bit weird that he knows her number when they haven't spoken in seventeen years! Also, if Libby knew her daughter was headed to London to find her father, why didn't she give Henry a heads up? I assume she also had his number.
We see a scene of Henry talking to his campaign manager, Allistair (Jonathan Pryce) who also managed Henry's father's campaign and is the father of Glynnis. Allistair is worried about this American teenager who is now living with them, but Henry assures him that Daphne is a soft-spoken, well-behaved young woman and as he says these things, we see juxtapositions of Daphne being obnoxious and doing things like sliding around on the wood floor in her socks, boxer shorts, and a t-shirt like she's Tom Cruise or something or walking around in her tank top and pajamas while dancing and listening to her awful mid-20000s music on her headphones. You're a guest in this house, girl, have a little decorum.
Pretty much the next part of the movie is Daphne attending all these important events with her father and his fiancee and stepdaughter to be. Glynnis and Clarissa are always trying to sabotage Daphne and make her look like a fool, but Daphne seems to one up them most of the time. When she's invited to the Royal Fashion Show, Clarissa tells her she should wear something "funky"; that if she were to show up in pearls and a sensible dress, she would be a "plonker". Daphne wears jeans and a tank top (the only thing she appears to own) and shows up late at the show and ends up being confused with one of the models (even though they're all modeling dresses...how did the dumb idiot backstage mistake her for a model?) and she ends up walking the runway, instead, of you know, getting down as quickly and discreetly as possible. People seem to love her, though, but she ends up falling where faux Prince Charles is sitting with his two faux sons, William and Harry.
Daphne realizes that Clarissa did not explain it all to her and she calls her "my evil stepsister" and I had to laugh when she asks Clarissa if she's seen "Cinderella" and says, "Let me clue you in: I win."
She goes to another event that's a coming out party for the twin daughters of another Lord. Again, Clarissa and Glynnis try to sabotage her by picking out the most hideous dress for her to wear, but she ends up altering it so she's the most beautiful girl there. It's not a very happening party and Clarissa is being rude about it, so Daphne convinces Ian who is playing with his band (and Ian and his band will show up at another three more events in this movie; apparently he's the only gig in London) and he plays a James Brown song and the music is so loud that is shatters a huge chandelier that's the pride and joy of the Lord that lives there. Henry saves her by getting her out of there as quickly as possible, but the press (why are they even there at a private event?) get their picture anyway.
This is around the part of the movie where Daphne starts to bond with her dad. She learns that they both love '70s music and both love Coco Pops. Yes, you read that right. Apparently the movie didn't get the right to Coco Puffs. They also use All-Bran for another made up cereal because when Daphne sees Henry pouring himself a bowl of Coco Puffs, she tells him she thought he would be an All-Bran guy. Henry also gets concerned when he sees Daphne going out with Ian who's drives a motorbike and is in a band. This is especially hilarious because Ian is the least threatening boy ever. Like I said earlier, I could care less about the romance between Daphne and Ian. Yawn.
After a few more mishaps with Daphne (she can't help it! She's kooky and free-spirited!) Henry sits down with her to tell her that a certain code of behavior is expected with this family, so she trades her jeans and funky jewelry for tweed jackets and skirts, and pearls and attends functions without acting like a fool anymore. This angers Ian and he tells her he wants the old Daphne back.
Towards the end of the movie, her father throws a big, fancy party for Daphne's honor which will be attended by the Queen (and Ian is playing it with his band, which I find hilarious; why would he agree to play that party if he's so angry with Daphne?) and Jocelyn has invited Libby. Clearly Henry still has feelings for her when he sees her and asks her to dance which infuriates Glynnis. Daphne overhears Glynnis and Allistair talking of how he got rid of Libby once and he can do it again. Ruh-roh! Glynnis locks her in a closet (what are wicked stepmothers to be for?) and chooses that moment to have Ian play the traditional father-daughter dance and has Clarissa dance with Henry. Libby finds and frees her daughter and when Glynnis puts her hands on Daphne to keep her from interrupting her dad and Clarissa, she tells her, "Keep your hands off my daughter or you'll get a Broadway musical, not just a scene." Heh. I thought that was a good line.
Daphne tells Clarissa and her dad that she doesn't want any of this and she and her mom head back to New York. We get a few scenes of her looking sad, but we all know how this story is going to end, especially after we see a scene of Henry announcing he's stepping down from his position and basically tells Glynnis it's over. He flies to New York where he and Daphne finally get their father-daughter dance to "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" Well, it's half a dance because he also brought Ian to surprise her and they start dancing, so he starts dancing with Libby and obviously they get back together and officially get married and they all live in Henry's manor.
Oh, so throughout the movie (like in two scenes) Daphne has been applying to different colleges. The funniest line in the movie is at the end when she tells the audience, "I didn't get into NYU, but I got into Oxford!" Wait......what? HUH? WTF? EXCUSE ME??? She wasn't accepted into NYU, but yet she got into freaking Oxford which is probably even more prestigious than Harvard? HOW THE MOTHEREFFINGHELL DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? Me thinks Daddy Warbucks did some illegal underground paperwork to get her in and worked his privileges and connections. This girl doesn't even know that "loo" means toilet in England. We never got any sense that she was a serious, Ivy League scholar. In a movie full of questionable things, that was probably the most unbelievable.