|Though it's easy to dismiss the mistakes or successes in film like this because of its intended audience (young teenage girls) and the premise that most girls of that age aren't as discerning as older members of the audience, it seems an insult to the more intelligent members of the audience to let the "familiarity" of this script off the hook. The script for What A Girl Wants is more than just a tad predictable. And while the dialogue is spoken by suitable and sometimes suitable actors, this film might now be the easiest choice at the box office for viewers who have completed high school.|
And it might even be a tad difficult for those viewers who have completed junior high. This movie will doubtlessly be an enjoyable fantasy for twelve and thirteen year old girls, but they are in the only demographic that will wholly pleased with the film. This is not to say that the film cannot perform on a mildly entertaining level for older members of the audience. The English actors in the cast have a few witty spurts of dialogue which, in true British fashion, are thrown back and forth at no less a speed than ninety miles an hour.
With such accomplished actors as Colin Firth and Anna Chancellor in the cast, it is easy to see that most deficiencies in the script (regarding dialogue) are smoothed over by their expert performances. Putting much more heart and realism into a role which could have been much more stereotypical, Firth makes it apparent that his choice to co-star in this film wasn't a mistake. It's just a testament to what the actor is capable of that he makes his role the most dynamic of the cast.
Though Amanda Bynes is on the front of the poster, it is Firth who gives the audience (older members anyway) a realistic character with which to identify and sympathize. Though since Bynes is more than a few decades younger than Firth, who plays her father, perhaps the young actress can be forgiven for not lighting up the screen as much as she should have. Though she makes a great effort at including physical comedy into her performance, her tone of voice and the recitation of her dialogue sound sometimes as if a cue card was located just off camera, allowing her to read her words off a page.
Perhaps it is just her juxtaposition to Firth and Chancellor (and co-star Kelly Preston, who plays Bynes's mother) and the difference in career experience that makes Bynes's performance seem lacking in certain areas. Though her enthusiasm for the role is obvious, her acting skills are not yet sufficient enough to cover up the California Valley Girl accent she sports throughout the film (her character is from Chinatown in New York City though in real life, Bynes is from California).
But acting ability aside, it should be said that the entire cast is still a quite enthusiastic and sympathetic bunch and those audience members willing to sit back and enjoy the fantasy of the film will find themselves watching what amounts to a charming film. It is essential that those in the audience willing to lower their standards not try to engage their brains in any thoughts about plot and character though, because this film will collapse under the scrutiny. The plot itself is not so much to blame (since it's been seen on screen a million times before), but the character development just doesn't seem correct.
The main character flaw that should be mentioned is the relationship between Firth and Chancellor's characters. Chancellor plays Firth's social climbing fiancée (aren't they always social climbing?), but since her character is so reprehensible in her actions throughout the entire film, it is a mystery as to why Lord Dashwood (Firth's character) would ever have been attracted to her. Dashwood is painted as a completely genuine, if sometimes misguided, man over the course of the entire film, and his attitude towards his fiancée becomes one of annoyance and hatred far too quickly to be believable.
It's possible that this film would play well in some foreign countries, but British viewers are likely to roll their eyes at the all too often portrayal of their "stiff upper lip" and the predictable British jokes that litter the film. And the depiction of Amanda Bynes's character as the all American girl is quite a stereotype too. The idea that all British citizens are that uptight and that all Americans are completely insane in the head might be true in some circumstances, but this film makes quite a blanket generalization about it.
But what can one expect from a film that courts solely the attentions of twelve and thirteen year old girls? Films like this have the ability to appeal to a larger audience, but What A Girl Wants is just another example of a quick cheap product that's fast to make, inexpensive to produce, and easy to foist on an audience that isn't given much credit for any intelligence it might possess. One must turn off the brain absolutely and completely to enjoy the film, but who says that isn't exactly what people what these days? Perhaps the studios know what they're doing and are acting according to the people's wants? Better to watch this film sans-intelligence rather than try to analyze the thought processes of studio executives.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.