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A Cinderella Story
2004 - PG - 96 Mins.
Director: Mark Rosman
Producer: Susan Duff, Dylan Sellers, Hunt Lowry
Written By: Leigh Dunlap
Starring: Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, Regina King, Dan Byrd
Review by: Joe Rickey

I didn't know that Cowboy hats were still in style.
A funny, sweet, and well-acted piece of cinematic fluff, ‘A Cinderella Story’ is a fine example of how to make a fairy tale romance for a young audience that can still be enjoyed by people much older than the target audience. Films like ‘Ella Enchanted’ should take note. After this film inevitably becomes a success, Hilary Duff will be one step closer to becoming one of the premiere young actors who can carry a film; right up there with Lindsay Lohan and far surpassing the once promising Mandy Moore.

Sam Montgomery (Duff) is a high school senior who should be out enjoying her remaining time before going off to college. Instead, she is forced to work at her step-mother’s diner and when she isn’t at work, she is required to work around the house while her two ditzy step-sisters go out partying. She found herself in this situation after her beloved father passed away shortly after being injured during an earthquake. Sam’s only respite from this hellish existence is an online relationship with a man she thinks she has never met, but in reality, is the star quarterback for the football team at her very own high school.

After the two cyber-pals arrange to meet at the high school’s annual Halloween Dance, they dance the night away yet she doesn’t tell him who she is and he fails to recognize her. Only then does Sam realize her mistake in playing it coy. Can she get him to accept her once she tells him who she is? Will she ever leave the slave trade that is her home? What do you think? After all, the film isn’t called ‘A Cinderella Story’ for nothing.

In spite of the film’s inherently predictable nature, ‘A Cinderella Story’ manages to throw in a few surprises here and there to keep the audience wondering how Sam will overcome all the obstacles. The film’s key strength when it comes to Leigh Dunlap’s script though is the multitude of witty, humorous lines of dialogue and a few memorable characters. Consider a scene at the aforementioned Halloween Dance where everyone is dressed in some costume or another. One character is conversing with one of the evil step-sisters. After being told that the person is one of the Three Musketeers, the step-sister replies “You don’t look like a candy bar”. Another humorous line takes place at the diner. Regina King, lending her own sense of humor while playing one of Sam’s fellow employees, looks at a slab of beef and states “You call this Grade A beef? That cow must have failed the test.”

The film also benefits from solid performances. As the withdrawn, intelligent, and athletic Sam, Hilary Duff exudes an aura of sweet sensibility and shows skill at handling both comedy and drama; something she didn’t have to do in previous big-screen roles.

As her evil step-mother, Jennifer Coolidge, fresh off three ‘American Pie’ films and two ‘Legally Blonde’ outings, overdoes her part so much one can’t help but laugh at her character’s shallowness. And, as the film’s love interest, Chad Michael Murray, is okay at playing basically the same role as he did last summer in Lindsay Lohan’s ‘Freaky Friday.’

‘A Cinderella Story’ is a charming combination of romance and comedy that just so happens to be appropriate for all ages.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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