out of Five
Running time: 90
Surprisingly enjoyable teen drama that overcomes its terrible opening and gradually breathes life into the usual cliches, thanks to strong performances and an above-average script.
What's it all about?
Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) stars as Poppy, a spoiled Malibu teenager whose widowed father (Aidan Quinn) finally cracks and sends her to an isolated boarding school in England after her latest bout of bad behaviour. Naturally, Poppy's an instant outsider at the school and quickly makes an enemy of stuck-up head girl Harriet (Georgia King), but the headmistress (Natasha Richardson) takes a shine to her and encourages her to give the school a chance.
However, Poppy still wants to leave and bonds with her four roommates (Kimberley Nixon, Juno Temple, Sophie Wu and Linzey Cocker) when they agree to help her get expelled. But will her burgeoning friendships and a blossoming romance with the headmistress' son (Alex Pettyfer) change her mind?
Credit is definitely due to Roberts for turning around such an initially annoying lead, but there's also strong support from her friends, particularly Nixon and Temple, both of whom create likeable, interesting characters and prove themselves talents to watch in future. There's also good work from Richardson, while Shirley Henderson, Daisy Donovan and Nick Frost all add colour in minor roles.
Essentially, this is Mean Girls meets St Trinian's. Wild Child may be packed with cliches and you're in little doubt as to how it will all end, but, crucially, it knows how to make its cliches work, nailing the film's emotional climaxes and even delivering a convincing romance.
The first twenty minutes of Wild Child are excruciating, not least because Poppy herself is a deeply irritating and utterly charmless character. However, the nicer Poppy gets, the more the film improves and by the time she dyes her hair back to its natural colour, she's completely won you over.
Despite a shaky start, Wild Child is actually a surprisingly entertaining teen flick, thanks to likeable performances and a script that highlights the importance of friendship. Worth seeing.