A Cinderella Story
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Mark Rosman
scr Leigh Dunlap
with Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, Dan Byrd, Regina King, Julie Gonzalo, Madeline Zima, Andrea Avery, Kevin Kilner, Paul Rodriguez, Lin Shaye, Mary Pat Gleason
release US 16.Jul.04, UK 20.Aug.04
04/US 1h35

Just a diner girl: Duff and Murray

duff murray coolidge
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Adapting a fairy tale to a modern-day high school isn't terribly original, so when you go there you'd better have something ingenious up your sleeve. Alas, this won't strain your imagination at all.

After her father died, Sam (Duff) was raised by her vain stepmother (Coolidge), who treats her like a slave while pampering her moronic daughters (Zima and Avery). Sam has a plan to escape to a university far, far away, but first she must survive one more year of high school. When she discovers that her soulful text-pal is actually the Big Man On Campus (Murray), her nerdy best friend (Byrd) and protective godmother (King) help make her romantic dreams come true at the school Halloween dance. Then midnight strikes and her fantasy crumbles.

The idea is a good one, and the writer obviously enjoys applying the story elements to 21st century teen life. But the film is directed like a zany slapstick remake of Pretty In Pink (mixed with You've Got Mail), and all the goofy antics undermine any potential for actual comedy or romance. Even the gifted cast seem defeated by the material.

The normally perky Duff adds depth to Sam, but is sabotaged by silly stereotypes invading every scene. The stepsisters are too ugly (on the inside of course), the best friend is too wacky, the evil stepmother just too much (it should be a crime to waste the divine Coolidge this badly). The charming, handsome Murray is actually the most interesting character--his personal struggle is the most engaging, simply because the people around him are more realistically awful (mean girlfriend Gonzalo and demanding dad Kilner).

But the real pity is that the film's sunny and bright style masks a dull, lifeless centre. With a few hilarious exceptions, the jokes are bland and unfunny, and the fairy tale reinventions aren't creative or witty enough. And even if Duff and Murray do pull a couple of lovely romantic moments out of the hat, the director is quick to either oversell them or throw them away with an uninspired bit of shtick. Watch Ever After again to see how it's done.

cert PG themes, some innuendo 18.Jul.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... a cinderella story becca, plymouth: 5/5 "i think this film is very good and relates to modern day school life. it hasnt got very funny jokes though but still good." (20.Jan.06)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall