– Summary –
Director : Nick Moore
Cast : Emma Roberts, Nick Pettyfer, Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn, Juno Temple, Georgia King, Kimberly Nixon, Johnny Pacar, Shirley Henderson, Lexi Ainsworth, Nick Frost.
Year Of Release : 2008
Length : 90 Minutes
Synopsis: A young Malibu girl is sent to boarding school in England to learn how to behave, after causing her father no end of frustration at her wild, rebellious ways.
Review : Stupid, vacuously inauspicious film purporting to show a girls journey from uptight bitch to warm-hearted friend, Wild Child is hardly “wild”, and manages to skirt anything resembling originality for it’s entire run-time. Some truly awful dialogue, mixed with half-baked concepts and character arcs, leave Wild Child as appealing as a cavity search.
As much I wanted to enjoy this film, I don’t think I’ve hated a film like this so much in recent memory. Devoid of any film-making talent whatsoever, Wild Child represents the nadir of teen based chic modern comedy, an update on the Clueless model that gave vacuous girls and their fashion sense more of a platform than ever in Hollywood. With a plot that could be written on the back of a postage stamp, characters so utterly lacking in actual character it’s like watching plastic mannequins come to life, Wild Child is so utterly un-compelling as a film I feel cheated to have wasted 90 minutes of my life.
Poppy Moore, a rebellious, fashion loving teenager from Malibu, makes such a hash of her life through being a bitch that her father send her school in an upper-class English college for girls. Without access to life’s luxuries, such an email and mobile phones, Poppy tries to get herself expelled by getting involved with the headmasters handsome young son. Along the way, she makes enemies with the head prefect of the school, a snooty girl with a very large chip on her shoulder. Together with her dorm room “friends”, Poppy manages to learn what it means to be a real friend, and discover her own identity as a young woman.
Wild Child is the cinematic equivalent of having your genitals torn off in an industrial accident. It’s a film so lacking in cohesion and structured narrative, it beggars belief that a major film studio could release it in the blaze of publicity it did. Characters behave in such unbelievable ways there’s no way this film could resemble even the most fantastical reality, even on a cinematic level. There’s no logic to the story, no development of any of the characters, and with dialogue so poorly written you’d be forgiven for needing a dictionary to understand it, Wild Child lurches from one poorly constructed scene to another.
The film opens with Poppy Moore (Emma Roberts) destroying her father’s girlfriends property, a woman we actually never meet, before enduring his wrath when he returns home to find his house in disarray. We’re not even five minutes into the film before the plot development occurs, never giving us a moment to see any bond between Poppy and her father. All we know is what we’re told, and can infer, from the rudimentary script. Why is Poppy such a class cow? We don’t really know (or care), until much is revealed by a more emotional moment towards the end of the film, but by then it’s too late. Poppy just comes off as a stupid American, reviled by her UK school peers and scorned by those she tries to get close to. It’s not Roberts’ fault, it’s the lame scripting and poorly developed character narrative.
Poppy’s chief rival for the affections of the headmaster’s son, is upstart school prefect Harriet Bentley, who pouts and scowls her way through the film like a bizarre parody of an actual human being. Harriet is one of the most clichéd, ridiculous and badly-acted characters ever produced for a feature film, Georgine King’s portrayal is among the most ham-fisted things I’ve seen in ages. Poor Natasha Richardson, slumming it here as the schools headmaster, is left with little to do but look maternal and stern, her dialogue about at original as Tupperware. Alex Pettyfer, as resident spunk Freddie, manages to sex it up as the object of the girls’ lust, although his role is superficial and nonsensical at best. Probably the best performance comes from Aiden Quinn, as Poppy’s father, which is amazing considering he’s on screen for a grand total of about five minutes.
The main problem with Wild Child, among the many I could list, is that the story isn’t very well developed. The film struggles to overcome a “copy & paste” mentality, with plot developments and story ideas (and even characters) stolen outright from other, more successful films. Poppy’s back-story, the key ingredient to make us like her, or even simply empathise with her plight, seems to have been left out of the film entirely. The characters lack motivation, their acts simply allowing the story (such as it is) to more forward without too much effort on our part. Characters are wooden, clichéd and generic, with the Not Another Teen Movie styled template for hackneyed creativity taking the place of actual inventiveness. The lame “bad girl turns good” storyline is meant to be a lesson for the film’s main audience, teenage girls. But even this lacks impetus, resulting in a wafer thin story wrapped around a series of intellectually vapid set-pieces. It’s like they wrote the script from a fill-in-the-blanks Word template on scriptwriting.
I know I’m not the target audience for this film, but that’s not the point. Even a film like this, with its obvious pandering to the pre-teen market, should be at least watchable as an entertainment. But it’s not. There’s not a lot I can say to dissuade the young girls from lapping this miasma up as the best film ever made, but for those of you looking for something more stimulating than a fashionista’s personal problems, I suggest you swing right past this turkey. Garish, poorly conceived, and executed in a poor-man’s movie of the week style, Wild Child is as flat as last weeks roadkill.