GIRLS just wanna have fun in Wild Child, a culture clash comedy which dons similar narrative garb to St Trinian’s, transplanting a fashion-obsessed American teenager to the dusty corridors of an English boarding school.
At first, the new girl rages against centuries of tradition, taking one despairing look at her stuffy surroundings and bitching, “What is this place, Hogwarts?”
She soon learns to look behind the draconian rules and unflattering grey school attire, and finds camaraderie where she least expects it, building to a rousing finale that suggests the British can’t have fun without guidance from our Trans-Atlantic cousins.
Screenwriter Lucy Dahl sketches characters in broad strokes, consigning realism to detention for the sake of giggles or tension.
Would a headmistress honestly greet her newest pupil by whispering, “Negotiation to me is something like a nightclub: not something I tend to enter into”?
The film pays a cursory glance to themes of grief and bullying, but not to the extent that occasional tears dampen the underlying mood of optimism.
Meanwhile, the first seeds of romance give bloom to a pleasantly chaste relationship between the heroine and her suitor, who has clearly been dipping into his mother’s Mills & Boon when he gushes, “Every day I’m with you, I keep catching my breath.”
Either that or her perfume is provoking an asthma attack.
Teenage tearaway Poppy (Emma Roberts) has never come to terms with the death of her mother, wrecking all of her father’s subsequent relationships.
After her latest dramatic outburst, widower Gerry (Aidan Quinn) dispatches Poppy to England to the boarding school run by imperious Mrs Kingsley (Natasha Richardson).
The 16-year-old, fashion-obsessed American immediately clashes with head girl Harriet (Georgia King), and with her dorm mates Kate (Kimberley Nixon), Kiki (Sophie Wu), Josie (Linzey Cocker) and Drippy (Juno Temple).
The quartet gradually warms to Poppy, encouraging the newcomer to fit in without sacrificing her lust for life.
In the process, Poppy catches the eye of Mrs Kingsley’s handsome son Freddie (Alex Pettyfer), who Harriet has been pursuing for months.
Wild Child is a modern day fairy-tale that doesn’t stray from the path of predictability, signposting every narrative twist like when someone warns Poppy to log off her computer session in case another pupil uses the account to send malicious e-mails.
No prizes for guessing what happens when she forgets!
Roberts is incredibly unsympathetic for the first half of the film but somehow wins us over as Poppy transforms from Malibu Barbie into brunette team player, on and off the lacrosse pitch.