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When Poppy (Emma Roberts) goes too far with an over-the-top prank at her Malibu home, her father Gerry (Aiden Quinn) ships her off to an English boarding school. Stuck in a new world of discipline, curfews and mandatory lacrosse, Poppy has to find a way to survive her new environment under the watchful eye of headmistress Mrs Kingsley (Natasha Richardson) and no-nonsense matron (Shirley Henderson). Her 'school sister' Kate (Kimberley Nixon) tries to show her the ropes but head girl Harriet (Georgia King) is keen to go overboard to make sure she never fits in. Especially when Mrs Kingsley's son Freddie (Alex Pettyfer), for whom Harriet harbours a king size crush, shows interest in Poppy.

Review by Louise Keller:
Don't give up on yourself, Natasha Richardson's headmistress tells Emma Roberts' out of control teen when she finds herself in her new strict English boarding school. There may be little that's new in this coming of age, fish-out-of-water tale about a rebel who finds her way, but first time screenwriter Lucy Dahl (daughter of the late Roald Dahl) has come up with a pert and charming script that is nicely handled by acclaimed editor Nick Moore in his second project as director. It's all about how Roberts' Poppy brings change to Abbey Mount School and in turn how the school and students change her. The film has an energy and honesty about it: it's lively, funny and smart and the characters are appealing. There's plenty to appeal to young teenage girls and women who enjoy being reminded of their teenage years will also be entertained.

When we first meet Poppy running amuck in her plush Malibu home, she has BRAT written all over her and is quickly sent away to an elite English boarding school for girls. Headmistress Mrs Kingsley (Natasha Richardson) sets her straight from the start, explaining that negotiation is like a nightclub; not something that she enters into, but Poppy rebels kicking and screaming, making an instant enemy of snobbish head girl Harriet (Georgia King) who is used to calling the shots. Once stuck in shared accommodation without mobile or wireless access and with four wholesome English girls headed by Kate (Kimberley Nixon) for company, Operation Freedom begins, being a daring plan in which Poppy sets about being expelled. And so begins the making of Poppy as her natural exuberance and imagination turn things around, not only with her roommates but also with the headmistress's cute son Freddie (Alex Pettyfer) on whom Horrible Harriet has a huge crush.

Roberts, who has impressed in earlier outings like Nancy Drewe and Aquamarine, shines brightly as the bleached blonde Malibu teen that puts her outrageousness to better use and swaps bleached blonde hair extensions for natural, glossy sincerity. Aiden Quinn is well cast as Poppy's widower father, Richardson exudes warmth as Mrs Kingsley and Pettyfer (Stormbreaker) is appealing in his first romantic lead role. Watch out for Shirley Henderson as the stern school matron who dishes out detentions as if they were candy, while the Kent and Hertfordshire locations are beautiful indeed. There's a nice balance of colour, offbeat and sincerity as Poppy learns the difference of behaving in a certain way, as opposed to being that person.

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(US, 2008)

CAST: Emma Roberts, Lexi Ainsworth, Shelby Young, Johnny Pacar, Aidan Quinn, Natasha Richardson, Georgia King, Eleanor Turner-Moss, Ruby Thomas, Kimberley Nixon, Juno Temple, Linzey Cocker, Sophie Wu, Shirley HendersonAlex Pettyfer

PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Diana Phillips

DIRECTOR: Nick Moore

SCRIPT: Lucy Dahl


EDITOR: Simon Cozens

MUSIC: Michael Price


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sept 4 (Tas); Sept 18 (VIC/QLD); Sept 25 (NSW/ACT/WA/SA), 2008

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