FOR those growing up in the early 2000s, Amanda Bynes was a beacon of energetic fun and goofy humour.
Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show showcased Bynes as a care-free performer whose willingness to look silly for laughs made her an extremely affable and accessible figure, especially for those youngsters on the verge of – or wading through – the image-obsessed and awkward adolescent years. Bynes was a teen star many of us – now in our 20-somethings – clung to until she fell off the radar in 2011.
Dennie Gordon’s 2003 film What a Girl Wants gives Bynes the Princess Diaries treatment, taking her physical silliness and landing it in the orderliness of upper-class Britain.
Bynes plays Daphne Reynolds, a 17-year-old New Yorker who travels to England to meet her father (Colin Firth) for the first time. When Daphne arrives in London, she struggles to come to terms with the blue-blooded expectations of her father’s political (both professionally and socially) lifestyle and must decide whether to conform or return home.
Bynes’ mischief and this aristocratic setting should be a perfect recipe, but for the most part What a Girl Wants is as underwhelming as a flat soufflé.
From the pop song opening, the teen-tropes pile up higher than Big Ben (working or non-working) with a guitar-carrying love interest and an interfering step-sister. Of course, there is Firth’s usual Mr Darcy routine to amuse, particularly one scene where he sheds the stiff upper lip to don tight leather pants. It is all harmless, all largely forgettable and at very best moderately jocular.
This is a film for those who are still nostalgic over Bynes’ charming youth, but have already worn out their copies of Big Fat Liar and She’s the Man.
What a Girl Wants is best left to memory – or left alone entirely. Certainly not what this reviewer wants.
This was review 5/30 in the April Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.