Instant messaging, as in dexterous teens typing furiously with their thumbs on
their cell phones, is a solitary visual that is deadly dull on the screen.
Yes, similar activities with just the right script and the right cast -- think
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in YOU'VE GOT MAIL -- can be good, but it's hard to make
such computer activities cinematically interesting.
A CINDERELLA STORY, which could have been titled YOU'VE GOT INSTANT MESSAGES,
features Hilary Duff as a Cinderella named Sam. Duff ("Lizzie McGuire") is the
movie's only drawing card, but the movie never manages to tap into her large
reservoir of charm. She does okay in the movie, but the performance is way
below her capabilities.
Leigh Dunlap's by-the-numbers script just takes the Cinderella story and
transplants it to the San Fernando Valley. About the only major twist is that
our modern day Cinderella drops her cell phone rather than her slippers when
midnight arrives at the big dance, a Halloween costume ball. Jennifer Coolidge
gives one of her typically irritating performances as Sam's evil stepmother.
In a slapstick movie filled with pratfalls, Madeline Zima and Andrea Avery play
Sam's evil stepsisters, Brianna and Gabriella. Typical of the movie's humor is
the scene in a car wash that has Brianna and Gabriella fighting each other
while getting soaped up, waxed down and, finally, blow dried. It's a scene
that you've seen many times before.
Austin (Chad Michael Murray), Sam's "prince," is the captain of the football
team, the president of the student body and the boyfriend of the head
cheerleader, Shelby (Julie Gonzalo). Sam originally met Austin in a chat room
for students wanting to go to Princeton. (They don't know each other at first
since their real identities were hidden in the chat room.) Austin's dad wants
him to be a football player at USC and then come home to run the family car
wash business, while Austin dreams of going to Princeton and becoming a
The lackluster comedy switches to a message movie in the last act but is never
convincing. The ending, set at the big football game, is equal measures
predictable and ridiculous.
A CINDERELLA STORY runs 1:26. It is rated PG for "mild language and innuendo"
and would be acceptable for kids of all ages.
My son Jeffrey, age 15, thought that there wasn't much to the movie but he
still kind of liked it and gave it ** 1/2. He liked Duff in it.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes