00:00: Please don’t ask why I’m doing this. I have no idea. I barely know who Amanda Bynes is, but last week, after she announced her retirement on Twitter, several people acknowledged that What a Girl Wants qualified as one of their guilty pleasures. A week later, and here I am downing Irish Coffees and hoping for the best.
00:01: The butterfly floating over the credit sequence doesn’t give me a lot of hope.
00:01: Daphne Reynolds (Bynes) has lived her whole life with her mom (Kelly Preston) in a 5th floor walk-up in Chinatown.
00:01: I know nothing about this movie. I think it was released right after I graduated law school, which is where a huge black hole exists in my pop culture knowledge. But seeing Colin Firth’s name on the credits prompted two things: 1) The blood drained out of my face out of embarrassment for Firth — how can you be associated with a movie that has a butterfly flying over the opening credits, Colin?, and 2) I think I’ve already cracked the premise: Girl lives with mother —-> the casting of Colin Firth = He must be her real father, right? And given Firth’s reputation, he’s probably insanely wealthy. So, one minute and 47 seconds in, I think I’ve already predicted the entire movie, right down to the “You’ll always be my daughter” speech in the end.
00:02: Every year on her birthday, Daphne wishes that someone else would be at her party. Ah, Daphne. I’m the same, only I wish that someone at all was at my party. That someone, presumably, is her father. So, on her birthday, her mother, Libby (Preston, who will probably die in the next few minutes — fingers crossed!), tells a strange, romantic tale about Daphne’s father, Henry, and how they had a Bedouin wedding. I assume this story is a lie?
00:04: Henry (Firth) is actually a Lord, because of course he is (oh shaddup). After Libby was chased away from Henry by his family, she had a child. Presumably, Henry has no knowledge of this, otherwise he would’ve had the pregnant woman murdered, right?
00:05: Libby is a wedding singer. Naturally. Daphne is a waitress with the wedding catering team.
00:07: Oh, woah! Is that Mayim Bialik (Blossom?!) She’s bragging to Daphne about where’s she’s going to college, while Daphne admits to being undecided. Wait! That’s not Blossom. I’m an idiot. That’s Tara Summers. The resemblance is uncanny, people. I don’t know why I never noticed, since I’ve seen Tara Summers in both “Boston Legal” and “Damages.” Girl is totally Blossom if Blossom were still acting and straight.
00:08: Either Kelly Preston’s singing voice is terrible, or they’ve hired someone else even more terrible to do the wedding singing. Good God! I have no idea which is worse, but the hairs on my arms are standing — I assume that’s my body’s battle cry. In either respect, the treacly song makes Daphne think about her Dad. Awwww.
I have a feeling this review is going to have a lot of awwwwws.
00:10: “Daphne, getting to know someone because they share the same DNA isn’t the answer. It’s about getting to know yourself.” Oh, sweet sweet regurgitate, choke me in my sleep.
00:10: Libby says to her daughter, “I love you a million Swedish fish,” and Daphne responds, “I love you a million red M&Ms.” What the fuck, people? They’re expressing their affection through artificially flavored candy products? I love this movie a million stale circus peanuts.
00:11: So I guess Libby isn’t going to bite it, after all (*sad face*). Instead, Daphne is running away from home and flying to England in search of her father. So, I’ve revised my predicted ending: Libby and Henry are going to get married, right? Fuck me in the ass with a school bus.
00:13: Thirty seconds in England, and Daphne has already found her love interest: A British bellboy/musician named Ian. He’s generic.
00:14: Twist! A news broadcast in Daphne’s hotel reveals that Henry has given up his seat in the Royal Family or whatever, to run for office as a “commoner.” A commoner? What a condescending term. Henry is also set to marry some other lady and inherit a step-daughter. I bet the step-mom is a total cunt. And I mean cunt in the British sense, not the American sense. Granted, they mean the same thing, but in Britain, it’s not nearly as harsh an insult.
00:15: I was totally right. The step-mom, Glynnis, is played by Anna Chancellor. She’s not actually a step-mom yet, but for the purposes of this real-time review, we’ll assume. Anna Chancellor nearly destroyed the government in “MI:5,” so of course she’s a bitch. She’s insinuating privately to her daughter, Clarissa, that once the marriage is official, they don’t have to try anymore. What does that mean? That once she’s the wife of an important public figure, it’ll be sweat pants and Ho-Hos from then on out?
00:17: How will Daphne ever get past all that security and into the Lord’s manor? Oh, she’ll climb over the wall. Impressive obstacle.
00:20: Henry has captured Daphne in the yard, and is accusing her of being a nosy member of the media. He’s giving her a good dressing down. Oh, this is going to come back and bite you in the ass, Henry.
00:21: Daphne reveals her true nature in front of the the fiancee, the daughter, and even the grandmother. Oh, there’s trouble afoot now. Colin Firth is stammering, and Colin Firth only stammers in every scene of every movie he’s ever been in.
00:23: Henry is now peeved that Libby has kept Daphne from him her whole life. Meanwhile, Glynnis Payne (that’s the wife-to-be’s terrible name) is advocating that Daphne be burned at the stake or shoved into the entrails of a camel or something before she goes and ruins Henry’s political campaign.
00:24: Lady Dashwood (the grandmother) seems to be the voice of reason. She sets Daphne up with a plush room, and when Daphne tries to express gratitude, Lady Dashwood responds, “No hugs, darling. We’re British. We only show affection to dogs and horses.” That’s absolutely not the worst line of the film.
00:25: This movie is getting bogged down in exposition. The complexity! Now, Henry is phoning Libby to chew her out. Before Henry can find out why Libby left him in the first place, she tells him to ask his political adviser, Alistair, and then hangs up.
00:30: Now we’re getting somewhere. Henry has asked Daphne to some Royal Dress Society function, which is where I’m sure that Daphne will humiliate the entire family while also endearing herself to Henry.
00:32: The antics begin! Daphne can’t figure out the bathtub. Really? It’s going to make her late for the Royal Dress function.
How different is this movie from The Princess Diaries, anyway?
00:34: After arriving late, Daphne is barred from entrance, but she eventually finds a way to sneak inside. And onto the runway. In jeans! Gasp, people. Gasp. Oh, strut your stuff, teenage girl. She’s winning over the crowd. “She can dump tea in my harbor anytime,” one of the spectators says. I have no idea what that means, but I’m going to go try that line on my wife.
00:42: Now, Lady Dashwood — who is the Julie Andrews of this movie — is having a heart to heart with Daphne about the shallow-ness of social standing.
00:45: “Hang in there, Ducky. And you’ll rock!” I take that back; Lady Dashwood is no Julie Andrews.
00:47: Uh oh. At another function, Daphne is dancing with Amistaud, who is Clarissa’s love interest. Amistaud is something of a douchebag. Oh look: Ian — the musician/bellboy — is predictably playing the Royal function, because shitty pansy-boy acoustic rock is always appropriate for high-society functions. Daphne’s gone doe-eyed.
00:51: Bored by the tone of the party, Daphne convinces Ian to do some unholy awful James Brown number. The grandmothers are dancing. All of England’s high-society is now line dancing. I’m so embarrassed for this movie. It’s only a matter of time before a grandmother raps.
00:54: The thumping bass shook loose the prized chandelier, which crashed and shattered. That’s Lord Dashwood’s cue to take his daughter and vamoose.
00:54: Apropos of nothing, Henry’s now looking through Daphne’s picture album; he’s falling in love with his daughter. Oh, Daphne. I love you a million Butterfingers.
00:56: Henry and Daphne’s attempts to bond over Cocoa Puffs are railroaded by Glynnis. Ian also arrives, which gives Henry the opportunity to be a father. Oh, goddamnit. Ian is kind of charming, too. I hate this movie because it won’t let me hate it properly. Go fuck yourself, Amanda Bynes.
00:59: Music montage, tracking the relationship progression of Ian and Daphne: Cue requisite falling into the pond scene. Oh, you! You adorable goddamn kids and your insanely predictable hi-jinx.
00:60: Ian to Daphne: “Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you’re born to stand out?” That’s what she said?
00:64: Now, Daphne’s been invited to a regatta. I have no fucking idea what a regatta is. But Ian is working that event, too. Oh, regatta means “boat race.” File that under: Dustin’s a dumbass.
00:66: Amistaud makes a pass at Daphne, and Daphne pushes Amistaud into the water. The press are now chasing Henry and Daphne, and Henry has just jumped onto a motorcycle. Oh, Lord Dashwood: You’re so indecorous.
00:70: Another musical montage, this time tracking the deepening of Henry and Daphne’s relationship over fake tattoos, clothes shopping, and record shopping. Henry is doing all sorts of indignifying things now, like wearing muscle shirts and leather pants while dancing in front of a mirror. Oh, Colin Firth, I hope the paycheck was worth it.
00:72: Lord Dashwood has fallen in the polls. And now he’s got to come clean with Daphne, and tell her that she has to change so as to better fit in. (Setting up the inevitable “Always be yourself” speech in the final scenes, right?)
00:74: Another musical montage! This time, tracking Daphne’s metamorphosis into high-society girl and Dashwood’s bounce back in the polls. The better Dashwood does in the polls, the more miserable Daphne looks.
00:76: Now, as part of her new self, Daphne has to blow off Ian and The Strokes concert. “Just call me when Daphne re-inhabits your body,” Ian says, storming out in a huff.
00:78: Now it’s time for Lady Dashwood to remind Daphne that it’s what’s inside that matters. And what’s inside, of course, is candy sprinkles and pastry frosting.
00:80: Daphne arrives at the latest ball looking all princess-y, and of course, Ian is playing this ball, too. He’s pouty. “What happened to the old you. The real you?” he says. At this moment, Libby arrives all dolled up. “Are you actually wearing a bra?” Daphne asks her mother. Oh, scandalous.
00:81: Glynnis is all catty, insisting that “Lubby,” find herself an escort. Henry volunteers. Oh, snap, y’all. Double, triple, quadruple snap!
00:83: Now, Glynnis has locked Daphne in a closet. No shit. Artificial plot contrivance alert.
00:85: The traditional father/daughter dance arrives and Daphne is nowhere to be seen (what with being locked in a closet). Clarissa volunteers, of course. Henry reluctantly agrees. Libby finds Daphne locked in a closet. Daphne sees Clarissa with Henry: She’s crestfallen. Daphne hands Clarissa the tiara. “I don’t want it. Any of it.” She storms off in a huff. “I’m done waiting, Henry.”
00:87: Here’s Daphne’s big “I miss being me,” speech. Henry’s attempt at an apology is thwarted by the arrival of the fucking queen. Henry slinks back into his proper place, while Daphne returns to the States. Another musical montage, displaying Ian, Henry, and Daphne’s *sad faces.* Daphne can’t even eat her Cocoa Puffs without getting upset. When Coo Coo the Bird can’t extract any joy, life’s simply not worth living.
00:91: Now, Lady Dashwood has to give her heartfelt speech to Henry. “Don’t sacrifice your heart, Henry.” Hmmm. Seems I did have some vomit left in the tank.
00:92: Here’s Henry’s big political speech, in which he withdraws his candidacy. “I’ve changed [Music swell]. As important as my political aspirations are to me, there’s one thing that matters more …” Well, it’s certainly not your dignity, Colin Firth.
00:94: Now comes the showdown with Glynnis and Alistair, the political adviser. Henry punches Alistair in the face and ditches Glynnis. “You’ll be all right.”
00:95: Back in the States, Daphne is waitressin’ another wedding when the father/daughter dance is announced, Henry arrives. Oh, god. “Have I Told You Lately That I Loved You” is the song, because of course it is. “What it comes down to is that … I … uh … I love you, Daphne. And I wouldn’t change a thing about you.” Libby is weepy. “Might I have the honor of this dance.” Awwwwwwww.
00:98: And here’s Ian to cut in, while Henry makes his way to Libby, where an apology is given and a kiss is delivered. “I finally got my father/daughter dance,” Daphne says in voice over. ” But of course it got interrupted when my boyfriend showed up and my parents starting making out.” Isn’t that the way?
And they all lived happily ever after: Henry and Libby got married, and Daphne wound up in Oxford with her boyfriend. The End.
I wish I could say I despised the movie. Sadly, it was not just tolerable, but even a little watchable. I’m a little ashamed.