Urban Cinefile
"Ego you use for a whole lot of things in this business. You got to have it to protect yourself against all the people who're going to tell you that the job means dick. Yeah, I know the job means dick."  -Russell Crowe
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday June 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



When Sam's (Hilary Duff) father dies, she is left in the clutches of her wicked stepmother, Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge) and ugly, scheming sisters (Madeline Zima) and (Andrea Avery) who take over her father's house, his neat little diner - and her life. Miserable and downtrodden as the household slave, Sam tries to study hard to get into Princeton but is held back by Fiona's demands, both at home and at the diner where Sam is forced to work long hours. When she is finally convinced by friends to go the fancy dress ball as a bit of fun she deserves, she gets to meet the mysterious Nomad, who turns out to be the hunky (much-crushed by the girls) football captain, Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray) with whom she has been chatting online for some time. This is not welcome by Austin's just-ditched girlfriend, Shelby (Julie Gonzalo), and the meeting is abruptly cut short when Sam has to leave to get back by midnight, and her chances of romance seem suddenly dim. But she does drop her mobile phone on the way out, which Austin picks up ....

Review by Louise Keller:
It's a sign of the times, that Cinderella's glass slipper has been replaced by a sleek mobile phone, and the wicked stepmother spends her days having liposuction and tanning in the home solarium. The ugly sisters practise their Ester Williams aquarobics techniques wearing multi-coloured floral swimming caps, Prince Charming captains the football team, but he really wants to be a writer, and Cinders good-naturedly scrubs the floor of her beloved father's diner - wearing roller skates. No wonder they call her Diner Girl.

Targeted at a young female audience, A Cinderella Story is an entertaining fantasy for those who believe in 'happily ever after'. Predictable, formulaic and derivative in slick, Hollywood style, the film is surprisingly endearing, as parody collides with saccharine.

Of course there's little connection to reality as the updated, age-old tale unwinds, but the core message about pursuing your dreams comes through clearly. But there is more to a fairy tale than finding a handsome prince, it's also about being accepted at Princeton and being accepted by your peers.

Effusing as much charisma as she did in The Lizzie Maguire Movie, Hilary Duff is perfectly cast as Sam, the vulnerable beauty whose dreams are as downtrodden as her life. Both Duff and Chad Michael Murray's dreamboat Austin (appealing) play it very straight, leaving a home run in the laughs department to Jennifer Coolidge who delights in the vile-ness. There's even an extra twist of irony that her wicked stepmother character is named Fiona - as is Shrek's green dream-princess. Coolidge gets all the best lines, and her delivery is impeccable, using those impossibly huge lips to great comic advantage.
When she insists the garden is irrigated, water restrictions or not, she retorts: 'droughts are for poor people - do you think JLo has brown lawns?' and when she is berated for not looking upset, she boldly declares 'It's the botox - it takes an hour and a half to get my face to work.'

If you are looking to find flaws in A Cinderella Story, there are plenty. Most notable is the leap of faith we are required to take when Sam and Austin meet as Prince Charming and Cinderella at the Halloween Ball. Bearing in mind Sam's disguise only comprises a dainty white eye-mask, the filmmakers ask a lot of us to believe that Austin doesn't recognise her. Especially as he hangs out at the diner with his pals and insufferable cheerleader girlfriend every day. Chances are, when ideas were petering out, the five producers sat around a table one day musing 'Wouldn't it be fun if we reworked the cyber romance in You've Got Mail, calling the starry-eyed teens Princetongirl818 and Nomad609?'

A Cinderella Story mostly achieves what it sets out to achieve - it's a fantasy for those who have had a cynic bypass, and are looking for a chuckle in a land that bears absolutely no relation to real life and dreams come true.

There's a lot of good natured fun on the DVD, including a lively informal audio commentary with Hilary Duff and the cast. Those interested in the screen testing process will enjoy Prince Charming's screen test with Duff, as well as the Ugly Sisters and some of the other cast. There's a behind the scenes feature, additional scenes plus a theatrical trailer - all bringing a fresh new look to the age old story of Cinderella.

Published March 17, 2005

Email this article


CAST: Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Julie Gonzalo, Chad Michael Murray, Brenda Song, Brad Bufanda, Dan Byrd, Madeline Zima, Julie Gonzalo, Lilli Babb, Aimee-Lynn Chadwick

PRODUCER: Ilyssa Goodman, Casey La Scala, Hunt Lowry, Dylan Sellers, Clifford Werber

DIRECTOR: Mark Rosman

SCRIPT: Leigh Dunlap

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony B. Richmond

EDITOR: Cara Silverman

MUSIC: Christophe Beck


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Hilary Duff & cast; screen tests; behind the scenes feature; trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: March 16, 2005

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020