The Teen Spirit

What a Girl Wants
USA, 2003, 105 mins.


Dennie Gordon


Amanda Bynes
as Daphne Reynolds

Colin Firth
as Henry Dashwood

Kelly Preston
as Libby Reynolds

Oliver James
as Ian Wallace

Christina Cole
as Clarissa Payne

What a Girl Wants

Review by David Bjerre

What a Girl Wants
Rating 7 of 10
Designations & Trivia

Genre: GirlieTalk


Dancing, Fairytale, Hit Single.

Did you know that...
Amanda Bynes starred in the TV-series "What I Like About You", which run for four years and a total of 86 episodes.


Daphne (Amanda Bynes) is a free-spirited 17-year-old girl, living in New York with her mother, Libby (Kelly Preston). Every night since Daphne was a kid, she's begged her mother to tell her the same story, about her father, Henry (Colin Firth), an important member of the English aristocracy, who met Libby in a foreign country and fell in love with her. But alas their union was doomed. Libby simply didn't fit in, and she was sent away by Henry's aides. He never even knew why she left, or the fact that she was pregnant with his daughter. Now that Daphne is grown up, she feels that a part of her is missing. She longs to meet her father, and one day she's finally had enough. She packs her bags and heads for good ol' England.

On the other side of the world Lord Henry Dashwood is on the verge of running for the House of Commons, his fiancé Glynnis (Anna Chancellor) and his stepdaughter Clarissa (Christina Cole, from "Hex") are giddy with anticipation, wanting nothing more than to climb another step on the social ladder. And then Daphne knocks on the door.

She's met with disbelief at first, but Henry quickly recognises himself in this larger than life American teenager. She even has his eyes! Despite protests from his British family, who feels terribly threatened by her presence, Daphne is set up in a gigantic room in Henry's mansion. He also takes her along to a few social functions, where she quickly draws attention to herself. Daphne won't take crap from anybody, and she certainly has no intention of going to a party without having fun. She'll pump up that music, take over that dance floor, and she's not satisfied until every single one of those boring English twits get up and shake their booty. Soon the press catches on, and Daphne's extravagant behaviour makes it to the front pages.

"Despite myself, I find your Yankee vulgarity intensely attractive"

Even though Daphne's charm is contagious, she causes quite a few ripples in high society, with her unusual behaviour. Soon Henry's political career is threatened. Though he's become quite taken with this little whirlwind, he also knows that he must rein her in if he wants to keep his political career alive. Daphne knows that too. No more craziness, no more scandals. She must turn into a normal girl. But can you really take the wild out of a wild cat? And even if you could, would you want to?


"What a Girl Wants" combines a fish-out-of-water story with a classic fairytale, complete with queens, ladies, lords and crazy American girls! The film could have been a real stinker, but it's got one important thing going for it: Amanda Bynes. She's an ace when it comes to slapstick humor. Falling on your ass has never been more attractive than when she does it, and she gets plenty of opportunities to do so here. Her energy holds the film together.

Take for example the scene where Daphne is late for a fashion show. She tries to sneak in through the back door, but accidentally walks on to the stage, and finds a dumbstruck audience staring at her in disbelief. However, Daphne doesn't panic. She throws the jacket over her shoulder, and turns her mistake into an impromptu catwalk session, to the tune of "I wanna be Bad", by Willa Ford. Then of course she trips and falls right into Sir Charles' lap! This is just one of many scenes that shouldn't have worked, but does, thanks to Bynes.

She also has great chemistry with Colin Firth, who relishes the chance to put a dent in his wholesome image. All those costume films must have really gotten to him, because he perfectly embodies the reserved Lord who's got a wild man inside, struggling to get out. This results in some of the film's best scenes, like the obligatory happy montage where Daphne and Henry get to spend a day alone together - she even makes him get a tattoo - or later when Henry is caught by his fiancé playing air-guitar while wearing leather pants!

Now all we need is a good soundtrack, and the film has got that too. With a good mix of familiar tracks like "Who invited you", by The Donnas and "What's good for me", from singer-songwriter Lucy Woodward, and unusual tracks such as "Somebody Stop Me" from Erica Rivera.

Of course it's no secret where the film is headed, and in case you're unsure the penny will certainly drop when Daphne confesses to Henry that her mother never found another man. "What a Girl Wants" doesn't feel terribly original, but it's got that twinkle in the eye that makes all the difference.

David Bjerre, May 6th, 2007 - Send David a comment about this review.