Poppy (Emma Roberts) is a spoiler teenager living in Malibu, disrespectful to everyone and anyone she sees. She’s a vile person, although early on we can see that there’s something from her past causing this type of anger. Could it be the premature death of her mother? Of course, but it’s going to take a move to an English boarding school, new friends, discipline, and so on to figure this out. You’ve seen this type of movie before, and Wild Child does nothing to make it stand out from the crowd.
So, Poppy is put in a fish-out-of-water situation. She has to bond with her new roommates, a bunch of teens who have been going to this all-female school for years. She needs to follow the rules set out by the headmistress (Natasha Richardson). She involves herself in a feud with the most popular and feared girl on campus, Harriet (Georgia King). And she falls in love with the only boy who occasionally shows up — because he’s the headmistress’ son — Freddie (Alex Pettyfer). You go through all the scenes you’d expect from this type of film, all leading up to forced tension and artificial reconciliation.
It’s not even that this type of film is oversaturated with tripe. I can’t name a whole lot of other movies like Wild Child, but I could begin a list of all the prerequisite scenes in order to make one. It’s a problem of “seen one, seem them all,” because it takes an extraordinary effort to make one worth watching. It has to have a great lead performance, be exceptionally funny, subvert the norms, or do something worthwhile to justify its existence. Wild Child does none of this and can give us a reason to watch it.
Perhaps it will work as a film for parents to show their teenage girls if they ever begin to have a sense of entitlement. Tell the kids that it’s a documentary and that this could happen to them if they don’t (1) stop being spoiled brats, (2) make friends, (3) treat others with respect, (4) all of the other life lessons that you want to instill in a child.
What is there to see in Wild Child? The supporting cast is pretty good, especially if you’re a fan of British cinema. The likes of the aforementioned Pettyfer and Richardson, along with Juno Temple, Nick Frost, Shirley Henderson, Aidan Quinn and Jason Watkins all have supporting roles. Some of them are barely in the film, but each one gets at least a scene or two in which they do something worth seeing. The life lessons are all there, too, and while it’s not a film that will appeal to too many adults, younger teenagers might get something out of it.
It’s also predictable, formulaic, and none too fresh. You’ve seen it all before, and even though it might have some things worth seeing, they’re not present often enough to justify viewing the film. There’s a distinct lack of depth to anything that happens, meaning that the few attempts at drama fail to a pretty great extent. The comedy is very hit-and-miss, too, with a few jokes hitting and many more completely missing.
In the end, there’s no reason for anyone over the age of 14 to watch Wild Child. The lessons it preaches won’t rub off on older individuals, the film’s lack of depth and humor will irritate those with a more developed mind, and while seeing the supporting cast might save it on occasion, the film as a whole is forgettable and not terribly interesting. Most will have seen this type of film before, either in an episode of their favorite cartoon or as a film they watched during their childhood. This one’s not worth it.