High school senior, Sam Montgomery, lives at the beck and call of her self-obsessed step-mother, Fiona, and her sinfully wicked step-sisters, who treat her more like a servant than a member of the family. With her sights set on attending Princeton, Sam finds her less-than-sparkling social life wonderfully complicated when she meets her prince charming online. However, when her anonymous cyber soul mate turns out to be her high school's über-popular quarterback Austin Ames, Sam makes a mad dash back to reality, leaving her cell phone behind just before the clock strikes midnight. Fearing rejection if her secret is revealed, Sam dodges Austin's relentless efforts to discover the identity of his princess. Will Sam let fear hold her back, or will she find the courage to be herself and claim the life she's always wanted? Her chance at "happily ever after" depends on it.
If adolescent rebellion were channeled toward a useful cause, the tweener audience for "A Cinderella Story" and for the recent "Sleepover" would march en masse to Hollywood to protest the cynicism, sloppiness and condescension of the toxic fantasies being hurled at them. Set in the San Fernando Valley, "A Cinderella Story" strains to bend the classic fairy tale to accommodate another coarse high school comedy of air-headed teenage vixens ganging up on a meek little angel. Samantha (the talent-challenged Ms. Duff), or "Diner Girl," as she's jeeringly labeled, is a pariah because she drives a battered old car and toils like a slave in her evil stepmother's hideous pink-painted diner. That stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge), who suggests a nightmarish hybrid of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Tammy Fay Bakker, is a greasy-looking sexpot manqué. The resident Prince Charming (Chad Michael Murray) is the courtly captain of the football team, student council president and closet poet, and the fairy godmother (Regina King) the salty, good-hearted African-American manager of the diner. Even for a fairy tale, "A Cinderella Story" fails to make sense. — Stephen Holden
2004-07-16 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of A Cinderella Story