Projections - Movie Reviews

A Cinderella Story

A Cinderella Story
Starring Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray,
Dan Byrd, Regina King, Julie Gonzalo

Hilary Duff is in a tweener comedy that is a dull, modern spin on a classic fairy tale.

A Cinderella Story tries to spin its magic-wand at the start from the relationship of a young Sam Montgomery with her father Hal and a snow-dome with a castle in their San Fernando Valley home. Once her dad perishes the film seems content to follow a cliched vacuous track with plot elements similar to better films this year like Ella Enchanted.

In Northridge eight years late, Sam (Duff of “Lizzie McGuire fame) is relegated to living in the attic (a room that girls her age wouldn’t mind living in) and at the beckon call of imperious step-mom Fiona (Jennifer Collidge of Legally Blonde-2). Her dad’s diner is now called Fiona’s where Sam toils long hours while studying hard for an education at Princeton. She drives an old Mustang which runs better than a “beat-up old car” should. The anemic script from Leigh Dunlap and uninspired direction from television director Mark Rosman underscores the difficulty of making such a memorable fairy tale character real in the present.

Because Sam works at the well-designed 50's diner, she’s known as “Diner Girl” in a derisive way by fellow North ridge students for no apparent reason. And her choice of clothes doesn’t seem to make her different from others at school. Her sole guy friend is the flamboyantly preppy Carter (Dan Byrd) who is called a zero when he dresses like Zorro for a big Halloween dance and doesn’t realize what kind of person Sam really is.

That dance could have been staged for the better than having Sam in a gown and mask stunning everyone, especially football star Austin Ames, a shallow part for Chad Michael Murray of Freaky Friday. His Prince Charming disguise doesn’t help his character who has to deal with a controlling dad who wants him to play ball at USC and a manipulative cheerleader girlfriend Shelby, acted in “Queen Bee” fashion by Julie Gonzalo. An on-line relationship between “Princetongirl” and “Nomad” will eventually be revealed at a homecoming pep rally before the big football game. But the costuming, acting, and slapstick is consistently forced and derivative with the evil Fiona and the feuding “out-of-stepsisters” Brianna (Madeline Zima) and Gabriella (Andrea Avery) more annoying and silly than amusing. Witness a race of sorts back to the diner after a cell phone rather than a glass slipper is left behind and a skirmish at the Car Wash where the popular Austin works for his dad.

A Cinderella Story finally climaxes as happiness appears to be a raindrop away for Sam and Austin, though Duff and Murray are pretty much unable to generate any sparks because of the awkward retooling. When they take a leisurely walk outside of the dance with pretty lights around them the best chance for romance never ignites. In spite of a cartoonish, hopeless scenario for the cast, credible support comes from those like Paul Rodriguez and, especially a god motherly Regina King as Fiona’s employees at the dinner who support Sam while working for a boss interested in eating salmon and going through Botox and other body make-overs. But, this make-over has to eventually tear wallpaper to relate its truth while mired in vanity and mean-spiritedness.

A Cinderella Story

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