If some films are made to order, the market-researched A Cinderella Story has the stretch marks to prove it. Somewhere in the arid San Fernando Valley, Sam (Hilary Duff) is at the beck and call of her onerous stepmother, Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge, so way past her expiration date it’s about time someone had her stuffed), a monster who firmly believes that “droughts are for poor people.” At a Halloween dance, Duff’s anonymous ugly duckling discovers that her cyber paramour of five months is the ostensibly superficial captain of the football team, Austin (Chad Michael Murray), but she continues “waiting for the rain” instead of embracing romance. This myopic story is essentially a feature-length version of Duff’s “Come Clean” song, and though it pretends to be concerned with individual identity, in reality it’s only interested in pandering to a tween audience’s petty notions of morality and obsessions with physical beauty. Because burdening Duff with a boy who’s less than Tiger Beat material is soooo not cool, it’s only natural that Austin is both attractive and tortured inside. The jokes all range from the obnoxious to the thoroughly embarrassing (“I need to use the litter box,” says one of Sam’s stepsisters while dressed as a Siamese cat), and every actor in the film gets their own gender-defined role, but in the case of Regina King’s fairy godmother (referred to at one point as Betty Crocker, not the more apt Aunt Jemima), the filmmakers seemingly use race to further inflate Sam’s capacity for kindness. (Proving that you can indeed take it with you, Sam rewards her Mamie with a cushy job at her deceased father’s diner, but not before rewarding herself for her years of servitude to Coolidge’s cruel slave master.) Cinderella Story neither strains for logic nor romance (the film borrows a CGI droplet—in this case rain and not an actual tear—from The Passion of the Christ and updates Cinderella’s glass slipper as a cellphone), but it’s every bit as retrograde as its fairy tale of origin. A work of thoroughly elitist proportions, this vanity project affords Sam both a Prince Charming and a free ride to Princeton. God, it’s so great being Hilary Duff!
Fans of Hilary Duff's pearly whites and high-pitched squeal have nothing to complain about here.
Be wary of any DVD that actually gives a cute little title to a commentary track. Here it's "Hanging Out With Hilary and Friends," which features the pop tart and numerous stars from the cast giggling, squealing, and cracking jokes for 90 minutes. Equally horrifying is the offensive "Find Your Prince/Princess Challenge" game, which raises the question: Does the film's demographic also include boys actively looking for princesses? The highlight, though, of the entire disc is "Cinderella Couture: The Making of a Fashionably Modern Fairy Tale," which is more or less an excuse for the crew's make-up and dress department to talk about how difficult it was to make the gorgeous Duff look like a retard. Scratch that: The most horrifying thing I've seen in my entire life may be the unfortunate "Kids With a Cause" PSA, which intercuts scenes of Duff waxing philanthropic for the camera with shots of other mentally and physically handicapped children. Rounding out the disc is the Duff Monsters's "Our Lips Are Sealed" music video, screen tests, two additional scenes, the film's theatrical trailers, and previews for Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Polar Express, and One Tree Hill.
After watching the supplemental materials on this DVD, you'll never get the following words out of your head: "Hi, I'm Hilary Duff!"