A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Amanda Bynes, the star of "The Amanda Show," is well known to fans of the Nickelodeon channel, who are so numerous that she is to 'tweeners as Jack Nicholson is to the Academy. She was sort of wonderful in "Big Fat Liar," a comedy about kids whose screenplay is stolen by a Hollywood professional, and now here she is in "What a Girl Wants," a comedy whose screenplay was stolen from "The Princess Diaries." But I am unfair. What goes around comes around, and to assume this is a retread of "The Princess Diaries" is to overlook its own pedigree. It's based on the 1956 play and 1958 screenplay "The Reluctant Debutante" by William Douglas Home--who, by the way, was the brother of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, briefly the British prime minister in the 1960s.
The point, I suppose, is that few movies are truly original, and certainly not "What a Girl Wants" or "The Princess Diaries." Both are recycled from ancient fairy tales in which a humble child discovers a royal parent and is elevated from pauperdom to princehood, to coin a phrase.
I would not be surprised to learn that Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler, who adapted Home's screenplay, did homework of their own--because a key plot point in the movie mirrors Sir Alec's own decision, in 1963, to renounce his seat in the House of Lords in order to run for a seat in the Commons. He won, became prime minister after Harold Macmillan, and quickly lost the next election to Harold Wilson.
Do you need to know this? Perhaps not, but then do you need to know the plot of "What a Girl Wants"? The movie is clearly intended for girls between the ages of 9 and 15, and for the more civilized of their brothers, and isn't of much use to anyone else.