A fairytale brought to life.
Sure, it may seem a tad cliché, but Warner Brothers certainly has it right in “A Cinderella Story,” starring Hilary Duff [“Lizzie McGuire,” “Cheaper By the Dozen”] as our Cinderella and Chad Michael Murray [“One Tree Hill”, “Freaky Friday”] as our Prince Charming.
With endearing characters and over the top performances by supporting actors Jennifer Coolidge [“Legally Blonde,” “American Dreamz”] and Regina King [“Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous,” “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde”], you’ll find yourself on an emotional roller coaster throughout this timeless tale.
Sam Montgomery [played by Duff] is your quintessential teen girl with the hopes of going to Princeton. During her journey, her evil stepmother [Coolidge] and stepsisters played by Madeline Zima [“The Nanny,” “Legacy”] and Andrea Avery [“Soul To Take,” “First Daughter”] try their hardest to intervene in any happiness she attempts to remedy for herself. The only happiness she has to cling to is her anonymous e-mail buddy [Murray] who has hopes of meeting her at their school’s annual Halloween homecoming dance.
Duff, though beautiful even in her muted duds, certainly pulls off her role as the timid, transformable, but intelligent diner girl and has just enough sugar and spice needed for this portrayal. Her performance, though campy [it’s the Duff way], was utterly believable. Her wannabe, I-don’t-care-what-you-think attitude truly shines through; even with the A-crowd queen bee, Shelby Cummings played by Julie Gonzalo [“Eli Stone,” “Must Love Dogs”] on her character’s back throughout the film.
Duff’s encounters with Murray are clearly at two opposite ends of the spectrum, which suited this film perfectly, as Murray plays the popular and charismatic high school football star. Hunky Austin Ames [Murray] can walk the school halls and suddenly make birds appear, while Sam] remains invisible and feels most comfortable that way.
Little do they know, they have more in common than they are aware of.
Like Sam, Austin has his own royal expectations throughout the film, but not in the way everyone sees him. A star athlete with a well off family business, Austin feels the pressure of following in his fathers footsteps. His ideals lie elsewhere however, as he struggles to stand up for his true desires that unknowingly only Sam can bring out in him. This makes it a different type of Cinderella story, but one that has enough in common with the original and enough flair on its own to be truly compelling and fun.
While the relationship between Duff and Murray is central to the success of the film, the score is an important element as well. The lyrics from one of the songs in particular, “You’re my survival, you’re my living proof that love is alive and not dead…” [as made famous by Edwin McCain] can be taken in more than its literal sense for this tale of inspiration.
The same thing goes for Sam’s most trivial possessions, as they too end up meaning much more by the film’s end.
In a sense, that’s what this movie is all about- as these small touches make it a wonderfully sappy, but fulfilling family film.