Dennie Gordon, US, 2003, 105 mins
Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Oliver James, Soleil McGhee, Eileen Atkins, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Reeves
As the sort of person who wouldn't wait 17 minutes for a bus, imagining that American wedding singer Libby (Kelly Preston) would spend 17 years waiting for her man requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. But on this unlikely premise lies What A Girl Wants.
Bohemian Libby fell in love with soon-to-be Lord of the manor Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth) but, thanks to the cunning machinations of those behind his political aspirations, Libby's exiled, and leaves without telling him she's pregnant. Fast forward to the present, where the spirited 17-year-old Daphne (US comedy actress Amanda Bynes) sets off to find her father in London.
Cue a US-friendly picture postcard view of London, full of red telephone boxes, bearskins and Cor Blimey Guv'nor cockneys - unrecognisable to anyone who lives in the city. Here, Daphne meets a young singer Ian (impressive Brit newcomer Oliver James) who takes her under his wing and delivers her to Daddy's impressive family pile. The rest of the film follows an all too predictable path - brash American teen causes chaos among the echelons of English society, tries to conform and loses her unique personality and her new man, before finally embracing who she truly is, and getting her fairytale ending.
There were times when I stared slack jawed in awe at how bad this film was. It has some of the most embarrassing set pieces I've seen in a film - Colin Firth dressed in leather trousers playing air guitar is something I can't easily erase from my memory. Couple that with the unoriginal storyline, flat direction, and poor production, I should have left scoffing in horror - but I couldn't help but like it.
It has a charm that reminded me I haven't always been a cynical adult. Most of the characters are engaging - Colin Firth, forever Mr Darcy, is endearing as a dad without a clue, and Amanda Bynes could have been maddening but plays it very well. It's a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, it's inherent messages being be true to yourself, never give up on love, don't change to please others and other chocolate box moral sentiments that somehow managed to bring a tiny sniffle and tear to the eye.
Pre-teen girls will swoon over the obscenely cute Oliver James, and it would make a nice family day out film for them. But even if you don't have kids to take, if you're caught with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon, give it a chance and feel what it's like to be innocent again.