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What a Girl Wants

What a Girl Wants

Amanda Bynes shakes things when London calls her in What a Girl Wants, directed by Dennie Gordon (Joe Dirt).

In this comedy that should please teen girls who've followed Bynes' success on the Nickelodeon Channel, there's a father-daughter soft spot in this spin on Disney's The Princess Diaries.  Instead of Julie Andrews there's Colin Firth as the unknowing British lord, once a bohemian before his Henry Dashwood had his sights set on politics.

Daphne Reynolds (Bynes) has been a waitress  at wedding parties where her mother, Libby (Kelly Preston of View from the Top) sings.  And seeing all those father-daughter dances and mom's stories of those scenic times with dad has her quickly on route to London.

Before landing is lush aristocracy, What a Girl Wants, adapted from "The Reluctant Debutante," a 1958 comedy with Rex Harrison and Sandra Dee, Daphne meets a nice, handsome young man, Ian (Oliver James) who works as a hotel clerk.  He is really a musician, and Gordon uses a range of music, from contemporary to soul, to help cover up some of the film's murkier aspects, from plot to production.

This Cinderella-like tale, referenced emphatically by Daphne, has its wicked stepmother and stepsister in the form of Henry's socialite fiancee (Ann Chancellor of Crush) and her daughter (Christina Cole).  Lord Dashwood's campaign manager (Jonathan Pryce) figures prominently in the resolution of Daphne's situation which the viewer knows early, but the important characters later with Libby not allowed into British high society.

Preston sounds good in her few scenes as a singer before getting all pretty for an entrance in the last act which recalls Maid in Manhattan.  This fish-out-of-water tale tries to balance frivolity with tenderness as Daphne loses her touch with Ian because she tries to fit in when "she was born to stand out."

While Bynes' fun visit to London isn't a memorable fairy tale, there are a variety of costumes and veteran actress Eileen Atkins of The Hours and Gosford Park helps the mood as the wise, yet fiery Lady Jocelyn.

What a Girl Wants

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