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A Cinderella Story

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: A Cinderella Story

Starring: Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge
Director: Mark Rosman
Rated: PG
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Chad Murray, Dan Byrd, Regina King, Julie Gonzalo, Lin Shaye, Madeline Zima, Andrea Avery, Mary Pat Gleason, Paul Rodriguez, Whip Hubley, Kevin Kilner, Erica Hubbard

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

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 writer.

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

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