A Cinderella Story
- Mark Rosman
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, September 28, 2004
The story is indeed that of Cinderella, only updated, and acknowledging the existence of the aforementioned fairytale. It tells the tale of Sam (Duff), an orphan, whose dead father didnít leave a will, so now her stepmother inherited everything he owned. Now Sam is treated as a near-servant while her two step-sisters, Brianna (Madeline Zima) and Gabriella (Andrea Avery), live the good life. Itís not that bad for Sam though, except it doesnít really look like sheíll be able to go to Princeton, which is her dream, and besides, being a ďdiner girlĒ sucks every bit of possible popularity out of her.
Soon it turns out Samís got a pen pal she met at a Princeton chat room, who studies, coincidentally, at the same High School, and also fears his college dreams wonít be fulfilled. This is Austin (Chad Michael Murray), the most popular guy in school. Both Austin and Sam want to meet, though they donít know each otherís identities, so they setup their encounter at the Halloween homecoming dance. Things go askew as she has to run at midnight (to prevent her step-motherís anger) and he never finds out who she really is, though he falls hopelessly in love with her. Finding her cell phone which she accidentally left behind, he begins a quest to find his Cinderella. But she soon wonders if heíll accept her if he finds out who she really is.
To some, the fact that this film mingles the well-known fairytale storyline with the average teen film formula is unforgivable. Iím not sure I think the same way. Itís decidedly not a great film, and certainly not a very original one, but itís clever enough to make the farfetched premise believable, and is filled with earnest performances that make it work. The real problem is the characters arenít too deep, in fact most are caricatures, and the film soon takes a self-parody path thatís not exactly convenient for it. When we finally get some real drama, it doesnít really work, because itís been played so safe so far. But still, there are elements that make us smile, and laugh, and walk out of the theater having had a good time. I think thatís what counts in this case.
As I said, the performances are earnest, and also quite funny. Duff is good at playing slapstick mixed with drama, and Coolidge, as her step-mother, excels at that as well. Dan Byrd as Samís best friend, Julie Gonzalo as Austinís bitchy girlfriend, and Regina King as a sort of fairy godmother, are all good. But the standout for me was Zima, whom I hadnít seen since ďThe NannyĒ: Sheís perfectly credible and funny in her white-trash role as one of the step-sisters.
If to some it counts, the underage members of the audience in my theater spent the whole film laughing out loud and even crying in the end. That must mean something. Donít go to watch this one... But donít run away from it either.
ďDonít let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.Ē
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