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The junior nobility diaries

By David Sterritt / April 4, 2003



If the Warner Bros. wizards have it right, what a girl wants is to see as much of Amanda Bynes as she possibly can.

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Eager to please, said wizards have shoved Ms. Bynes into almost every frame of their new romantic comedy.

This is excellent news for Bynes's youthful fans, who may never have a better chance to bask in her perky presence. It's not so great for the rest of us, since the film has nothing else to offer.

Bynes plays a New York teenager who dreams of meeting her father, an English aristocrat who sired her in a romantic fling years ago. Flying to London, she tracks him down and barges into his life, with results that make both of them (surprise!) better people in the end.

The screenplay is based on "The Reluctant Debutante," a popular '50s comedy. But today's teens will compare it with "The Princess Diaries," a smash hit two years ago.

For my money, "What a Girl Wants" is weaker in every department, but I don't expect that to weaken its box-office prospects.

These are assured by Bynes's popularity and - in case anyone over 21 shows up - supporting performances by Kelly Preston, the gifted Eileen Atkins, and Colin Firth, whose Hugh Grant impersonation has reached its pinnacle.

Rated PG; contains mild vulgarity.

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