A Cinderella Story (2004)

(On TV, March 2017) A modern take on the Cinderella story seems like a sure-fire premise—how difficult would it be to screw up? But as A Cinderella Story proves, there are no certitudes in life, especially in movies. Landing with a thud even by teen-movie standards, this film can’t be bothered to care about the main elements of the Cinderella myth, limps along without much grace and frequently becomes irritating rather than entertaining. Hilary Duff isn’t bad as the heroine of the tale and Regina King does manage to get out of a meager role with her dignity mostly intact, but the rest of the cast can’t do much to save a lifeless script with little in terms of style, charm, wit or grace. Jennifer Coolidge is particularly ill-served as the wicked step-mother: despite doing her best, her character is actively unpleasant without the panache we’d associate with the best incarnations of wicked step-mothers. The male cast is largely forgettable—although Simon Helberg does make an impression for a few scenes. At a time when there are a few serviceable versions of the Cinderella story floating around (including 1997’s Everafter, which wasn’t that good and yet still better than this), I can’t imagine a situation in which A Cinderella Story would be preferred over any other version. It mishandles great material and ends up delivering an instantly forgettable result.

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