"Is it anorexia or bulimia? If it's bulimia, I would appreciate it if you wouldn't eat someone's birthday cake on their birthday. It's such a waste."

‘Wild Child’ (Nick Moore, 2008)



Something you discover when you become a parent is that your kids won’t always follow your lead when it comes to good taste, judgement and generally sound film choices. At the time of writing it’s the dag end of half term and my daughter, 9 years old, got to choose what we’d watch this evening. She picked ‘Wild Child’. I’d never heard of it, didn’t recognise any of the cast on the list – not even the star! – but what the hell. She’s only 9. I can’t make her watch giallo every night.

‘Wild Child’ follows a pretty standard formula for most kids’ comedies. Duck out of water makes inroads, loses inroads, ultimately redeems themselves. That’s it. If I’m honest, I didn’t object to the ninety minutes of my life this film used up. Performances aside it wasn’t too bad. I’m something of a whore for this kind of schmultz. What helps with this film is that it wasn’t American, something I wasn’t expecting. Let’s go over the plot.

Young whoresA young, spoiled brat American teen wreaks havoc in her glorious palatial home, so her father (played by Aidan Quinn who I convinced myself was David Rasche) packs her off to the English boarding school her dead mum used to go to. Said brat, Poppy, is played by Emma Roberts. I’d never heard of her before and in writing this up I’ve just discovered she’s Eric Roberts’ daughter! How fucking cool is that? Just this minute found that out and it’s put a big fat smile on my face. Unfortunately, Eric’s daughter is not a natural actress or if she is, this isn’t the sort of film she should be in. Normally I can give a young performer a break as they’re just starting out, but she’s genuinely awful. Like someone painted eyes on a dildo and hid behind it bawling lines in a whiny yank drawl.

The English schoolgirls are pretty good all told, but I was surprised to see familiar faces. Only recently I’d watched ‘Fresh Meat’ and found it quite enjoyable. Two of the leads from that, Kimberley Nixon and Sophie Wu are present here. I also recognised Juno Temple, though lord knows how as looking at her credits she and I have little in common when it comes to films. But among them all and playing the villain of the piece is the shockingly woeful Georgia King. A terrible performance, tonally off with the rest of the cast and seemingly in a film of her own. Am I being harsh? Fuck yes. But if you’re going to put your kids on stage, expect them to get more honest reviews than you give them in the front room.

wc5We have adults as well. Aside from David Rasche-a-like Aiden Quinn we also have Natasha Richardson who must be turning in her grave to know this was her final film. She’s perfectly alright in it, but man alive. What a final entry on a CV. Only Orson Welles comes lower. Shirley Henderson fulfills her purpose as having to appear in every vaguely British film that’s made. The big surprise is that Toby Jones isn’t with her. Instead we get Jason Watkins who’s essentially the guy you end up with when Toby Jones is busy. They look and sound the same. Weirdly there’s also a teacher played by Daisy Donovan. I used to quite fancy Daisy Donovan.

A final note on the cast is the only young male lead. At first I assumed a shaven llama had stumbled through a washing line and onto set, obscuring the actor. But no, this giant-headed posh boy was a chap by the name of Alex Pettyfer. I’d heard the name before. With luck, I won’t encounter it again.

Skanks shoppingSo that’s the people out of the way, let’s focus on the script. It’s not too bad, and why wouldn’t it be? It’s written by a Dahl. Got plenty of time for the Dahl family. Roald Dahl’s books were exquisite and I’d have gladly inseminated Sophie Dahl when she was still human. It’s not a particularly witty script and the characters are thinly written. Whether this is because it’s just a kids’ film or not isn’t clear. I think Roald Dahl would say otherwise, but with films these days, rather than books, they’re edited by committee and any shortfalls can always be blamed on arsehole producers sticking their feckless oar in. It’s not a film you’ll be quoting, especially with predictable lines like: “England? They don’t even speak American there.”

Director Nick Moore belies his editor credentials by allowing every shot to last a few seconds longer than it needs to. Whether this is because he’s waiting for the cinema to quite down after a belly laugh is debatable, but it feels uncomfortable to watch. A lot of scenes feel like bad takes where the cast are waiting for someone to yell cut.

Shaven llama and famous dadSo what can we learn from all this? ‘Wild Child’ isn’t unwatchable, but it’s more fascinating than interesting. One thing’s for sure: this is not a film that should appear on anyone’s 24hr Film Session set-list. There’s no good explanation two grown men can give for watching schoolgirl-japes in a darkened room at 3am. Other than the excuse I posted in paragraph one.

Films like this leave me feeling my age. I’m beyond my mid-thirties now. Most of the cast here were born after I met Mr Frost and we started having these film sessions. That absolutely horrifies me. So if all the above seems harsh, bitter and resentful then it’s because it is. Fuck them and their film. Young bastards.

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