Wild Child

Wild Child


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

The wild child of the title is Poppy (Emma Roberts), a typically selfish and superficial Californian teenager who is sent to an English boarding school to straighten out and grow up by her father (Aidan Quinn) when she pulls one prank too many. The scene is clearly set for a culture clash and the cast relish their roles in this amiable film, aimed unashamedly at a target audience of teenage girls.

I have one major beef with Working Title and writer Lucy Dahl (Roald Dahl’s daughter). Yes, there has to be a villainess and yes, they are bound to be a bossy and overbearing girl in the school but they made an error in making her the head girl. Someone like her simply would never be entrusted with such a responsible role, particularly not by someone as disarmingly perceptive, intelligent, sensible, understanding and, darn it, nice, as the headmistress, Mrs Kingsley (Natasha Richardson).

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The main strength of the film is in its cast, who throw themselves into making the most of the rather insubstantial storyline. Roberts makes the transformation from a spoilt brat to an infinitely more interesting character seem effortless and is on fine form, as are Alex Pettyfer, Eleanor Turner-Moss, Shirley Henderson and Natasha Richardson. Georgia King’s role is the one jarring note and that is partly due to the character she has to portray but also to her over-acting, but the rest of the teen cast is immensely likeable.

There are any number of clichés in this film; the inevitable romantic liaison, the unrequited attraction, the misunderstanding, the unsurprising denouement, the phoenix-like transformation, even the discovery that Poppy is following in her mother’s footsteps is no real surprise, and yet despite that, the film hits the bull's eye for its target audience.

You cannot help falling for this film’s undeniable charm – it is a good hour and a half of entertainment. It seems to flash by quite fast, partly due, I might add, to the fact that Nick Moore directs it in the style of a hip video for the latest pop sensation, which might leave you slightly breathless, but is slick enough to attract the sophisticated shopaholic girl teens of today, not to mention their nostalgic mothers!

It may be derivative, it may contain one too many clichés but nevertheless, the film is dynamic, energetic, amusing and clever, and its engaging honesty is incredibly appealing. No, Lucy Dahl does not match her father’s literary genius but this is a surprisingly addictive popcorn flick. The dialogue is often a bit too predictable, the clichés too numerous, but there are some imaginative and dramatic moments and it is a lively, optimistic piece, or more accurately, a dead cert for the teenage girl, a guilty pleasure for their mothers and probably an irritation to be sat through for anyone male!

Reviewed on: 11 Dec 2008
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A spoilt LA rich kid is packed off to a traditional English girls’ school. At first she is determined to escape, but then she begins making friends – and catching the eye of the headmistress’ handsome young son...
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Jeff Robson ***

Director: Nick Moore

Writer: Lucy Dahl

Starring: Emma Roberts, Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn, Alex Pettyfer, Lexi Ainsworth, Shelby Young, Johnny Pacar, Georgia King, Eleanor Turner-Moss, Ruby Thomas, Kimberley Nixon

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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