Crossing boarders in familiar tween territory
THE romanticised ideal of an English boarding school is enticing. Sure, there’s a brutally enforced social hierarchy, but children face minimum adult interference and are left alone to have jolly scrapes in impressive gothic halls. Harry Potter’s popularity evidently has sparked the notion that boarding schools still appeal to modern tweens because after the tepid remake of St Trinian’s comes Wild Child .
Nancy Drew ’ s Emma Roberts is Poppy, an indulged Malibu teenager whose misbehaviour prompts her widowed dad ( Aidan Quinn) to send her to an English boarding school.
She begins by alienating them with her attitude, but Poppy’s dorm- mates thaw enough to help her escape, which, as any reader of Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl in the School will guess, is by getting expelled, ticking off Harriet ( Georgia King), the snobbish, brown- nosing head girl on the way. Inevitably, she realises she quite likes it there after all.
It’s an unoriginal story but one with potential, and the actors who play Poppy’s school chums are lively company. The problem is that the elements of the film don’t come together.
Unlike, say, Clueless ’ s Cher, who was shallow but well- intentioned, Poppy treats people horribly. That may make for a dramatic redemption, but it provides no reason for us to be on her side, other than that she’s a sassy American. ( And, for the record, no self- respecting Paris Hilton wannabe would tolerate rough hair like Roberts’s blonde wig).
It’s not fair to judge a writer on the work of her parent, but given that scriptwriter Lucy Dahl is the daughter of Roald, Harriet is a disappointingly uninteresting nemesis. The audience sees the cracks in her armour too early for her to maintain any menace.
In the end, though, Wild Child ’ s charms win out. There are some funny moments, particularly when the girls try to buy alcohol, and it’s refreshing to see a modern teenage film with colourful dialogue. But in the movie playground, Wild Child would never make it in the same clique as Clueless or Mean Girls .