A Cinderella Story (2004) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and innuendo
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, Dan Byrd, Regina King, Julie Gonzalo, Lin Shaye, Madeline Zima, Andrea Avery, Mary Pat Gleason, Paul Rodriguez
Director: Mark Rosman
Screenplay: Leigh Dunlap
A Cinderella Story is yet another attempt at an updating of the classic story of "Cinderella" for today's female teenage audiences. Like some of the more recent attempts, this one eschews fairy godmothers or any allusions to magic, instead letting serendipitous occurrences and full-fledged contrivances provide the engine on which this "fairy tale" drives its plot. If one were to guess the reasons why the makers of this film chose this route, my take on it is that there wasn't a great deal of imagination involved during the development stage, merely riding on the popularity of Hilary Duff (Cheaper by the Dozen, Agent Cody Banks) among their specific target audience. Even so, although this version is set firmly in reality and in the present day, it's every bit a fantasy as the original story, and maybe even less believable.
Duff plays Sam, left to fend for herself after her loving father passes away with her uncaring stepmother Fiona (Coolidge, Legally Blonde 2) and her two bratty stepsisters. She never gets a break, and is always on Fiona's bad side, stuck living in the attic at home and forced to work for next to nothing in Fiona's diner for most of her free time. One bright spot in her life is the mysterious young man that she has been corresponding with using text messages, although neither of the parties knows who the other person really is and what the other looks like. The boy she is talking to is none other than the hunk of the high school, quarterback of the football team, Austin (Murray, Freaky Friday), and their destiny is to meet at the school's Halloween dance.
It's colorful and energetic, but insipid though and through. It's also very hard to believe that the two most attractive students in high school would resort to anonymous instant messaging to find someone of interest, and it is especially ridiculous that Austin has no interest in Sam until he finds that she is the one he has been talking to all along. Although Sam wears an eye-mask at the Halloween dance, somehow Austin can't recognize Sam despite talking to her on a couple of occasions the day before. In an even dumber contrivance, her stepsisters can't figure out just who the girl in the Cinderella costume is either. If you can buy this ludicrous premise, perhaps you're already of the mentality this silly screenplay is aiming for.
A Cinderella Story is innocuous fluff that is likely only to please Hilary Duff fans already accustomed to breezy teen entertainment that demands little thought to fully digest. It's empty-headed and hollow-hearted fare that serves up only superficial diversions in place of a well-thought out story or characters that anyone could relate to or believe. The original "Cinderella" tale has been handed down for centuries, and will probably continue for centuries more. The impression A Cinderella Story leaves evaporates at the time the credits start to roll. This one turns into a pumpkin long before the designated hour.
©2005 Vince Leo