Cross­ing board­ers in fa­mil­iar tween ter­ri­tory

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Kerrie Mur­phy

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 .

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