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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

What a Girl Wants (review)

If this weirdly disturbing daddy-fantasy feels like a missing Hayley Mills Disney flick from the 60s, it’s no wonder: It’s based on a screenplay from 1958, and the contemporary updating it’s been subjected to only succeeds in adding a layer of ickiness. Seventeen-year-old Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes: Big Fat Liar) escapes from her wacky childhood — life in a fifth-floor Chinatown walkup with her hippy-dippy musician mom (Kelly Preston: View from the Top) — and skips off to England to introduce herself to her to-the-manor-born dad (Colin Firth: The Importance of Being Earnest), who had no idea she existed. The comedy mined from culture clash and class warfare we’ve seen before. What’s new is the stuff that Hayley would never have had to face, like the awful, goofy, shopping-and-trying-on-silly-clothes/falling-in-love montages, the de rigueur one with Daphne and her fabulous new English boyfriend (Oliver James), and the bizarre one with dad. Overly sexualized kids and their immature parents are unfortunate clichés of today’s films, but in combination with this particular tale of “why doesn’t Daddy love me?” it takes on a whole new uncomfortable veneer. Yuck.


MPAA: rated PG for mild language and thematic elements

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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