A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What A Girl Wants is light-hearted and fun, but also contains a strong word or two ("bitch," "hell"), and themes surrounding illegitimacy, divorce, and father-daughter relationships. It also contains a fair share of references to high-end goods (Gucci, Prada, Rolls-Royce, etc.) and logos for mundane items like Virgin Atlantic, Tropicana, and Coco Puffs. Drinking is visible over meals and social events. An occasional push and punch occurs, too. There's some inappropriate flirting and references to a man's genitals.
What's the story?
WHAT A GIRL WANTS stars Amanda Bynes as Daphne Reynolds, the spirited daughter of a wedding singer and single mom named Libby (Kelly Preston). Daphne has always dreamed of meeting her father, but her parents split up before he even knew she was going to be born, and he doesn't know anything about her. After she graduates from high school, she hops on a plane and shows up at his house. Except it isn't exactly a house -- it's a mansion. It turns out her father is Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who has just given up his hereditary seat in the House of Lords to stand for office (they say "stand" instead of run in England) just like a commoner. He is engaged to a horrible social-climbing monster named Glynnis (Anna Chancellor) with a snooty teen-age daughter. Daphne is a breath of fresh air and both she and Henry learn a lot about themselves as they learn about each other.
Is it any good?
It may feel to some people like an adorableness overdose, but this movie's intended audience will enjoy it very much. What a Girl Wants is not just a fairy tale -- it is a full-out fantasy straight from the heart of all young girls and former young girls who really really love their daddies. Bynes is a gifted comedienne, but she doesn't get a chance to show off what she does best in this movie. But she has a fresh and engaging presence and some able and charismatic support from classically trained stage actors Firth, Eileen Atkins, and Jonathan Pryce. The love interest, played by Ian Williams, should be high on the Teen Beat hearthrob list.
The movie feels too long because it is more like a string of unconnected sitcom episodes, each one signaling its conclusion the moment it starts. Each incident fails to build on or even be reflected in the one that comes next. It has a pre-packaged feel, leaving absolutely nothing to chance, not even the possibility that there might be some eight-year-old who has never seen a movie before and might not know that the bad guys are really bad unless they engage in the most idiotically outrageous (and self-defeating) behavior. The climactic, Cinderella-ish conclusion to the big coming-out ball makes Daphne seem inconsistent and immature. And the climactic decision by Henry makes him seem irresponsible and immature.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way Daphne tried to "fit in" and whether Henry was doing the same. What were the most important things Daphne and Henry learned from each other? They should also Henry's decision to change direction and what the impact is likely to be.
Does this movie remind you of any others? What are some themes that recur in movies about teen girls?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.