A Cinderella Story tells a tale told too many times before. With a few modern twists, Cinderella delivers a forgettable yet marginally likeable adaptation of the fairy tale classic.
Sam Montgomery (Duff) is a high school senior who after losing her father, must wait hand and foot on her Botox-enhanced stepmother, Fiona (Coolidge) and her ditzy stepsisters. Sam works seven days a week at the family diner while maintaining her "A" average at high school so that she will be accepted at Princeton. Besides her good looks and sweet personality, Sam feels ostracized from the rest of the school with the exception of her friend Carter (Byrd). Her only other companion is a cyber boyfriend. Communicating by text messaging and email, the two schoolmates fall in love without even knowing each other’s name. When they meet for the first time at the Halloween Dance, she is surprised when her Prince Charming turns out to be Mr. Popularity Austin Ames (Murray). Although she’s only wearing an eye mask, Ames’s inferior perception skills fail him as he doesn’t realize who she is. (Ames would be perfect for the Jimmy Olson role in Superman. He would never realize Clark Kent’s secret identity.) Sadly, Sam must return to her job before midnight, and as she flees the ball, she loses her cell phone.
I honestly did not realize a movie could squeeze this many Hollywood clichés into 86 minutes. Beside the Cinderella characters, we also have the “Mean Girls”, the sci-fi geek, the evil rich kids, the geeky yet innocent male friend, the overbearing dad etc. Did anybody in Hollywood go to a real high school? I think Director Mark Rosman watched Heathers and 90210 one too many times.
The primary problem with this movie isn’t the re-imagining of Cinderella it’s the ludicrous background characters and unrealistic school settings. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I sure wasn’t allowed to send instant messages during school nor did school seemingly start at 11am. A great deal of the film is set at school, but not a second took place in a classroom. The director’s limitations are all too clear whenever he inserts modern aspects around the “Cinderella” story. Rosman cannot take complete blame since Hilary’s mom, Susan Duff, receives a producer credit. Hey mom, don’t quit your day job.
Even with all these problems, I can’t really hate A Cinderella Story. Duff has a sweetness that endears her to the audience, while both Duff and Murray are believable enough when spouting dialogue aimed at 13 year olds. If Duff ever takes control of her career from mom, maybe she’ll blossom as an actress.
Will I remember this movie in a month? No, but I still remember Garfield , and that’s not a good thing. Only, I find it hard to rip this movie because it isn’t aimed at me. It’s aimed at a pre-teen and teenage crowd. Usually those types of movies are nauseating and tedious. Those of you who watched Scooby Doo 2 know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, Cinderella Story doesn’t grate the viewer in such a manner. For a parent who ends up being forced to see it, that alone is a redeeming quality.
Reviewed By: Matt Norris