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A Cinderella Story /

Rated: PG

Starring: Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, Julie Gonzalo, Regina King

Directed by: Mark Rosman

Produced by: Dylan Sellers, Susan Duff, Clifford Werber, Ilyssa Goodman, Hunt Lowry
Written by:
Leigh Dunlap
Distributor: Warner Bros.

 

Hilary Duff and Dan Byrd in Warner Brothers' A Cinderella Story
Erica Hubbard , Julie Gonzalo and Kady Cole in Warner Brothers' A Cinderella Story
Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray in Warner Brothers' A Cinderella Story

Rating Change (12/12/2004): I have changed my original 2.5 Bucket rating of this movie to 3 Buckets. After watching it for the third time, today, I think I was too harsh on director Mark Rosman and the script, in this review. Note that it is supremely entertaining and has an amazing performance from Hilary Duff, and is well worth seeing. The following is my 2.5 Bucket review, which I wrote upon its theatrical release:

 

     We live in a time in which people cannot appreciate solid entertainment. Im rather flexible in this sense, and find myself equally enjoying powerful dramas like Mystic River and popcorn flicks such as Charlies Angels. While A Cinderella Story comes nowhere close to being a classic motion picture, it is fun simply because its breezy. Id take it over the more technically accomplished Shrek 2 or the more horrifying Osama, any day. These two pictures were released this year and, despite being spectacles, they never really hooked me in. There is nothing worse than having to sit in an uncomfortable chair with a chatty audience when the movie, spanning the length of the screen, isnt engaging. This one may serve as a by-the-numbers tween flick, but at least its an immersing experience for ninety percent of its running length.

     There is little to no creativity to be found in A Cinderella Storys writing, direction, or camerawork. So, aside from the fact that it has little competition, seeing that there are only a few truly good films currently playing in multiplexes, what makes it worth seeing? One actress: Hilary Duff. Say what you want about the bubbly, fake-blonde in her sixteenth year, but I will defend her at all costs. Here, Duff dishes up another excellent and instantly likeable performance as Sam, in the modern day telling of the mythical fairy-tale the film bears the name of. Only this time, Cinderella and her Prince Charming have a meet-and-greet over AOL Instant Messenger, and decide to acquaint themselves in person at the High School Homecoming Dance. No beautiful, finely decorated ballrooms ensue. She recognizes him on their first date of sorts, as the football-team quarterback, jock Austin (Chad Michael Murray). He, on the other hand, has no idea who she is, even though the mask she is wearing for the costume party is only three-inches in height. After they dance for awhile, Sam has to rush off to work, and he never finds out who she really is. A search for the answer is only mandatory. Aware of Austins many attempts to find her, Sam isnt ready to come right out and tell him. And when she finally is, shes interrupted by the annoyances of her two evil sisters and stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge). Hey, I never said the movie was probable. But, the conduction is faithful to the fantasizing roots of the original story, and all is well, as a result.

     Perhaps the only good move the director, Mark Rosman, made was to allow Duff to craft her character, by herself. It seems as though, despite the best attempts of the cast, every other persona the audience is introduced to seems absolutely and annoyingly idiotic. But thank God for Hilary; shes the greatest gift this kind of movie could possess. Every time shes onscreen, A Cinderella Story shines, becoming instantly sympathetic and identifiable to. There is something in her presence that all of us can relate to, as she always brings about a lovely value to performing that is free of common techniques to superficially manipulate viewers, which are often used by stars in this sort of picture. Duff is always charming, and clearly sees how she should play her cards. Sam is a rather one-note character, so instead of trying to bring depth to her, the actress finds a simple common-ground with the audience and uses it as a lever for her work. As a result, she always seems interesting and natural in the film, just the kind of star youd actually want to hang out with in real life for a day. Heres a tough question that Im not sure I will ever be able to answer: should Duff keep on improving terrible tween flicks and making them somewhat watchable, or learn to pick better scripts and contribute to more enlightening material? It would be easier to jump to the latter conclusion, but something inside of me would like her to keep taking the same path.

     Maybe Im being utterly ridiculous. Am I supposed to just take things at face value and only appreciate artistically pleasing motion pictures? I would love to think so; it would make my job a lot easier. But, I enjoyed A Cinderella Story far too much to dismiss it. My expectations of it were bottomless, as I walked in, and I suppose this resulted in the mediocrity of most everything in it being insignificant.

     The trailer for Raise Your Voice, Duffs upcoming project, was featured before this one. Im hopeful that it will be terrific. But, living in this current moment, Im still somewhat unsatisfied with all of her choices of films, seeing that Ive never wholeheartedly recommended one of them. Still, A Cinderella Story is definitely worth seeing at a cheap matinee, or at least on DVD. If there was one thing that home theatre systems and bargain showings were invented for, it was this kind of movie.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.24.2004)


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