“Wild Child” – An Axe To Grind

It may not come as a surprise to many, but I have a seriously large bone to pick with films like Wild Child. An entire skeleton’s worth, in fact – it lives in the closet, sitting underneath the shelf that houses enough axes-to-be-ground to arm a large Viking raiding party and still leave some spare to prop open the doors on the way out.

ImageReleased in 2008, Wild Child did reasonably well at the box office – it currently sports a score of 6.0 on IMDB – though not well enough to leave much of a wake. The inclusion of Alex Pettyfer was about the most notable thing taken away by my dorm-mates, with whom I watched the film on a boring Sunday night in 2010.

To all intents and purposes, it’s a very typical sort of mainstream Hollywood outlet – spoiled teenage brat taken away from her standard environment to learn important life lessons / overcome challenges / acquire unrealistically attractive boyfriend in a kookily bizarre new environment.

It even comes with a tagline pun so hsameful they tried to hide it just above the credits. “A New Term for Trouble”? Dear oh dear oh dear.

Miriam told me she watched this film for research purposes before we got started on St Mallory’s Forever!, along with the new St Trinian’s film – which, fun fact, our publisher Mark hates in the same way most people hate Nickelback, or getting teeth pulled with pliers made of cacti – which is what got me thinking about it.

I’m not going to rag on about its inaccuracies (there aren’t enough hours in the world) or indulge my love of ripping apart trope-laden Hollywood output for my own glee. I can appreciate the demand for silly, fluffy films of this sort, and sometimes I can even enjoy them.

But what I’m not going to let it get away with is its lack of research. Oh yes, dear readers. This is going to be a post about research. Abandon hope all ye who enter here, don’t forget to wipe your feet on the way in, yadda yadda.

In order to create a polar opposite environment for Spoiled Protagonist Princess (also known as Poppy but that’s irrelevant), the film created an antithetical environment in the form of the boarding school. They did pretty well from the outset – I know at least three people who came from an “Abbey Mount”, and none of them from the same county – and conjuring up some strict teachers to act as barriers. The layout of the dorms, involvement of lacrosse, the fact that one of the staff actually had family living on campus, also were great elements that could be used to the plot’s advantage.

However … it was clear none of the producers or writers or cast members had ever set foot in a real boarding school. And they missed out on so many more things that could have made a mildly amusing chick-flick into an absolute gut-buster. I’ll break it down for you.

What They Did Have:

  • Pranks
  • The ramifications of sneaking out after lights out
  • The joys of raiding charity shops
  • An alarmingly accurate representation of how most people usually score goals in lacrosse.

All of these have their place, of course, but all were seriously underplayed in favour of harping on about the ‘untouchability’ of the Single Male Character Present Ergo Love Interest and the bitchiness of the stereotypical cardboard cut-out bully.

If one of the crew had decided to take a look at an actual school, here’s what they could have got from that list.

What They Might Have Had:

  • Hilariously awkward socials, involving bussing over a load of boys from a school up to twenty miles away just so the students get some socialisation.
  • Interplay and development between the characters, based on the extremely close friendships that can only be formed by sleeping in one room for the better part of a year.
  • More staff involvement – from matrons to groundskeepers to house staff. They’re people too, and they’re often the source of half he mischief we get into.
  • The joys of confronting an American student with Latin, Greek, or any of the other dead languages that tend to cause unsuspecting newcomers to stare at the page as if it’s going to try and eat them.
  • New girls’ rituals. Mine featured a cold shower, a musical number, and an everlasting mistrust of curtain rails.
  • Seasonal parties involving fancy dress. And trust me, we take our fancy dress very seriously.
  • Language mixups! If you thought coming from America to Britain was bad, add in a layer of bizarreness unique to antiquated bubbles of private education and you’ve got a recipe for hilarity.

Of course, this is very much a case of supposition rather than one tailored to Wild Child in particular. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that a film with as much potential as this one fell so flat on its face simply because a little more research was not put in to find the really juicy gems that might have saved it a real critical shredding. It’s not often Rotten Tomatoes produces something quite so scathing as: “This tween comedy mess falls flat on its face due to poor characters, poor direction and poor jokes.”

What about you, readers? If you’ve seen Wild Child, what did you make of it? And if you haven’t, what do you make of filmic research on the whole? Leave a comment, and let me know!

~ Charley R