A Cinderella Story
Opens Fri July 16
Before we begin, it's important that I preface this review with a disclaimer: I am not a fan of Hilary Duff. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have an open animosity for the teen starlet--an adversarial relationship begun, strangely enough, in my two-year-long, car-wreck fascination with her Disney-produced sitcom, Lizzie McGuire. My ambivalent irritation with her stifled acting soon turned to heated disgust following her now-infamous feud with Lindsay Lohan--a misstep that would forever hinder my ability to stomach Duff's mousey, wooden tripe with an evenhanded assessment.
Which leads us, however peripherally, to the topic at hand--Hilary Duff's new vehicle A Cinderella Story, another heavy-handed rehash of the fairytale, and one supposedly "benefited" by clunky modernizations and socially relevant subplots. A Cinderella Story follows the tale of the orphaned Duff as she navigates the challenges of high school, her begrudging stepfamily, a blossoming e-relationship (how totally modern), and several other extremely underdeveloped storylines. Our kingdom becomes a diner in the valley, Prince Charming a closet-intellectual quarterback, the glass slipper a convenient product placement, and the fairy godmother a restaurant manager. Meanwhile, the ever-martyred orphan works her fingers to the bone for money to go to Princeton (you know, because "that's where princes go").
All of the junk store archetypes are present and accounted for, of course, from the blazer-wearing, asexual best friend with a last name for a first name to the seemingly tacked-on villainy of the school's cruel head cheerleaders. What's suspiciously missing from the film, however, is even the vainest attempt to twist the Cinderella paradigm into something vaguely memorable. And though its previews suggest A Cinderella Story might elevate Hilary Duff to Lohanian star status (borrowing several specific shots from Lindsay's masterful Mean Girls), the movie just couldn't make it any easier for me to harbor my resentment. Even in name, the movie reeks of casual disposability--as if the producers were satisfied with the film's thoughtless recycling of such well-worn territory.