Plot: What’s it about?
Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) is a spirited seventeen year old woman, poised to take on all the world has to offer. Her mother Libby (Kelly Preston) raised her to be independent and free, which is just how Daphne turned out, to say the least. She never knew her father, but she learns he is a British man much different than people she knows. In an effort to find out more about herself, her roots, and her father, Daphne heads off to England to make up for lost time. But her father is not a wild, carefree person like Daphne and her mother. He is Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), a British politician who is well known for his social graces. In other words, he is uptight, traditional, and reserved, all traits his daughter doesn’t share. So when the vibrant, loud Daphne clashes with her father’s aristocratic world, things are guaranteed to never be the same. But instead of trying to make her new surroundings adapt to her wild style, she decides to try to fit in herself, which means some serious change is in order. Daphne does her best to keep her old habits hidden and live a prim, proper existence, but it won’t be as simple as it seems. And even if she can maintain the facade, is it better for her to just let loose and be herself? Daphne came across the ocean to find out about herself and by the end of her trip, she will know more than she ever imagined…
Yes, this does sound a lot like The Princess Diaries, but come on, its not like that was such an original concept in the first place. This Amanda Bynes vehicle seems to promise culture shock, trendy clothes, and a wild good time, but does What a Girl Wants deliver? Well, to be totally honest, this is one of the poorest films I’ve seen in recent times. And that is scoring it on a slanted scale, the kind used for other femme pop flicks, like Crossroads or The Lizzie Maguire Movie. What a Girl Wants makes Crossroads seem like a poignant, moving motion picture, so imagine how poorly executed this heap of trash is. The humor falls flat at every turn, even the obvious attempts at camp seem lame and in the end, there is very little to like here. I doubt even casual fans of Bynes will be that pleased, as even she isn’t too impressive here, never able to do much with the material. But she should have done more to enhance the movie, as even when buried under bad material, stars should be able to make things at least a little better off. Warner has put together a nice disc however, with a great transfer and some decent supplements, so hardcore fans of Bynes should be satisfied with the overall presentation. But unless you’re obsessed with Bynes, you’ll be best off with just a rental if you have to watch What a Girl Wants.
The selling point of What a Girl Wants isn’t the storyline, the humor, or the world travel, it is the female in the lead role. As with Britney Spears, Lizzie Maguire, and even The Spice Girls, Amanda Bynes has entered the world of big screen cinema. So can she measure up to the girl powered femmes that rolled into the movies before her? Not even close, as Bynes lacks the overall charisma and presence to make it all work. Say what you will about the others I listed, but they could all grab an audience’s attention and hold it. Not with their skills as actresses perhaps, but the combination of hot bodies, beautiful faces, and total charisma was enough to make their movies tolerable, even if still bad in most traditional respects. I found Crossroads and Spice World to be campish and tons of fun, but Maguire’s movie was weak outside of its star. In this case, Bynes lacks even the basic presence to make herself look good in this bad material. So perhaps the smaller screen is more for her, as her cinematic stylings leave a lot to be desired. You can also see Bynes in Big Fat Liar and Men in Black II, as well the television shows All That and The Amanda Show. The cast also includes Kelly Preston (Nothing to Lose, Battlefield Earth), Colin Firth (The English Patient, Bridget Jones’ Diary), and Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Brazil).
Video: How does it look?
What a Girl Wants is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As this is a new release from Warner, of course it looks terrific and then some. The print is almost pristine, so the visuals have a clean, crisp, and well detailed appearance. In fact, detail is so good at times, the image takes on a much deeper texture, quite impressive work indeed. The movie’s vivid color scheme bounds off the screen, with rich and vibrant hues that never drift into errors. I found contrast to be stark and consistent also, with no problems in the least to mention. All in all, another excellent visual effort from the folks at Warner.
Audio: How does it sound?
A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is used here, but the material doesn’t ask much of it beyond the basics. The pop driven music comes through well, with a lot of life and presence that spices up the experience a lot. But the music sometimes overpowers the other elements, though never to an extreme degree, so no worries there. The rest of the elements sound more than solid, but never rise above passable levels. A handful or so scenes have some added presence, but on the whole, the mix is basic and reserved. The material doesn’t need explosive audio however, so the experience is still fine and more than acceptable. The dialogue is crisp and clean throughout, with no signs of trouble in the slightest. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A pair of audio commentary tracks is found here, the first with star Amanda Bynes and the second with director Dennie Gordon, as well as writers Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler. Bynes offers no real insights, other than how neat it was to be in a movie, but the latter track provides some solid comments. The trio are dull in their approach, but if you liked the movie, you’ll find some tidbits of information here. This disc also includes two brief promotional featurettes, some deleted scenes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.