“Why am I telling you so much about Amanda rather than her new movie? Mainly because there’s not much to say about What a Girl Wants…”
I didn’t know much about Amanda Bynes before I saw What a Girl Wants. I had a vague recollection that she’d been a big star on Nickelodeon, but that’s about all I knew. And Blue’s Clues aside, I don’t really keep up with the programming on that particular children’s network.
A little internet research filled me in. Amanda started in 1995 on All That, Nickelodeon’s successful kid’s sketch comedy show, then graduated to The Amanda Show in 1999. Her biggest film to date has been Big Fat Liar, in which she co-starred with Malcolm in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz. Most intriguingly, she now appears in the WB series What I Like About You, starring opposite Beverly Hills 90210’s Jenny Garth and, interestingly, former MTV veejay Simon Rex, best known – in the circles I run with, anyway – for his solo work in Hot Sessions 3 and Young, Hard & Solo #3 (I guess I’m going to have to start setting my VCR for Fridays at 8:00 from now on).
Why am I telling you so much about Amanda, rather than her new movie? Mainly because there’s not much to say about What a Girl Wants, a highly derivative fairy tale that combines the edge-of-your-seat excitement of Cinderella with the nail-biting intrigue of The Princess Diaries. Bynes plays Daphne, who learns that her father (Colin Firth), whom she has never met, is a British Lord. Deciding to pay him a surprise visit, she heads to England and proceeds to create untold mayhem in his heretofore-stuffy life, mostly by falling down and acting like a buffoon in public.
Somehow, Bynes has developed quite a reputation as a physical comedienne. Judging by the stiff and uninspired slapstick here, she’s no Lucille Ball (she’s not even Linda Lavin). Only an audience unfamiliar with I Love Lucy or The Mary Tyler Moore show – like, say, Nickelodeon’s demographic – could possibly find Byne’s graceless shtick amusing. Then again, that’s precisely the crowd What a Girl Wants seems to be targeting.