Running Time: 98 mins
Rated: Rated PG (mild sexual references and coarse language)
If you are a member of the targeted teenage audience, you will probably have a completely different reaction to the film from that of parents - and of those even older. Here was Material Girls become Mean Girls and go to St Trinians until our wild child becomes a perfectly responsible young miss who has changed Malibu pampered self-centred hedonism for the discipline and sporting skills of a British private school lady.
Older audiences will have mood swings, especially if they are not sympathetic to presumptuous Americans who assume that their affluence is the only way of life and are arrogantly insensitive to other cultures and styles. Poppy (Emma Roberts, Eric Roberts' daughter) is an unbearable sixteen year old with a gaggle of hanger-on mindless friends who is resentful of her father (Aidan Quinn) after the death of her mother. She is brazen, he is exasperated and packs her off to Abbey Mount in England as a boarder, where nice but disciplined Natasha Richardson is the calm, non-negotiating headmistress.
Moods get worse as we see Poppy bring all her Yankee bumptiousness to the school, the girls, the staff and the rules.
Of course, we know that she is going to transform for the better by the end of the film but we do not realise she will go through the rebel stage (minor St Trinians' misbehaviour) which makes us emphathise with her father's exasperation.
Gradually, she transforms, getting the dorm room girls on side, and confronting the impossible head Girl who has her yes-girls in tow and moves through the students aping royalty. And we know she is going to get her comeuppance (Americans can change, the Brits just get their comeuppance).
By the end, Poppy is so good at LaCrosse (and discovers her mother was captain at the school 30 years earlier), so repentant of her misdeeds, so becoming in her uniform that we are prepared (or are supposed to be prepared) to forgive her everything.
UniversalOpens September 18
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.