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Movie Info




April 2003


1 hour 40 minutes


Amanda Bynes, Kelly Preston, Colin Firth, Anna Chancellor, Eileen Atkins, Jonathan Pryce, Christina Cole


Dennie Gordon


Denise DiNovi, Bill Gerber, Hunt Lowry


Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler


The Reluctant Debutante by William Douglas Home


Warner Brothers Pictures


Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.


What a Girl Wants

By Elliott Ryan
Guest Columnist - What a Girl Wants is a movie that is aimed at a specific audience. It occurred to me as I watched the film that I was not a part of that audience. Adolescents and teenage girls will find many things to like about this movie. If you aren't a part of that audience, all bets are off. Not that I would encourage betting.

This movie is a sweet, romantic Cinderella story about Daphne Reynolds (played by Amanda Bynes), an American girl who goes to England to see her father whom she has never met. While this hardly original story calls to mind several other movies with similar plots that have been released over the years, it is in fact based on a 1956 play by William Douglas Home entitled "The Reluctant Debutante."

Daphne's mother (Libby, played by Kelly Preston) is a wedding singer in New York. After graduating from high school, Daphne accompanies her mother to wedding parties and works as a waitress while her mom performs with the band. During the father-daughter dances at these weddings, Daphne yearns for meeting her own father, a British politician.

Eventually, Daphne decides to make an unannounced visit to her father, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who doesn't even know she exists. After meeting his daughter, Dashwood and his mother grow very fond of their new-found relation. Dashwood's snooty fiance and step-daughter-to-be resent her and attempt to make her stay very uncomfortable. Dashwood's political advisers, who ran Daphne's mother off seventeen years before, try their best to get Daphne away from Dashwood before the scandal can damage his political career.

The movie is quite funny in parts and consistently cute throughout. Perhaps too cute for some of us who are not part of the intended audience. There are a good number of jokes aimed at snooty members of the British upper crust. The usual scenes of the typical American teen struggling to fit in with British nobility abound, as they do in other movies of this type. Perhaps, I would have found them humorous had I not seen them before in several other movies.

However, at the heart of this movie is a very good message. It places a high value on fatherhood and family. Daphne realizes how important it is to her to have a father in her life. In fact, throughout her entire childhood she repeatedly wished for her father to enter her life. And in the end, her father realizes how important it is for him to be a part of his daughter's life.

The movie also communicates that family is more important than career. It could damage Dashwood's political career to admit that he had a family in America that he never even knew he had. He has to decide between fulfilling his responsibilities as a father and pursuing further political success. In the end, he makes the right choice.

The movie is very well-acted. Bynes, star of "The Amanda Show" on Nickelodeon, carries the lead role well. She is helped along by a cast of veteran actors who turn in performances that are as good as they can be with the material they are working with (in addition to Firth and Preston: Eileen Atkins, Jonathan Price, and Anna Chancellor).

If you are looking for a movie for the whole family, this would be an excellent choice. There is very little that is objectionable about this PG-rated movie. Perhaps the most objectionable thing would be the fact that Dashwood and Libby had a baby out of wedlock. Maybe. See, they were sort of married at the time... Nevermind, it is too hard to explain. Perhaps they were married all along. It is hard to tell. But this modern-day fairy tale is for the most part squeaky clean.

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