This war-horse fairytale gets dragged out one time too many so Hillary Duff (Lizzie McGuire) can pout around as a San Fernando Valley high school student, persecuted by her cruel step-mom Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge of American Pie) and jealous step-sisters, while she prances closer to the romantic flame of jock king Austin (Chad Michael Murphy). Unbearably packed with every ditzy clich & eacute; of teen girl fantasy, A Cinderella Story wallows in the saccharine sweetness of an insipid fantasy narrative that goes nowhere. The movie will wash over adolescent female audiences who don't know any better like melted Brie on 110-degree asphalt. But for the rest of us, it's a grueling waste of time.
Cinemas have been awash this year in teen girl fantasy tripe. If you missed Chasing Liberty (Mandy Moore) or Win A Date With Tad Hamilton (Kate Bosworth), then you still had ample opportunities to squish your head into Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen or Mean Girls (both with Lindsay Lohan). But this is definitely your year if you're a Cinderella purist because, between The Prince And Me (Julia Stiles), Ella Enchanted and the upcoming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (both with Anne Hathaway), Hollywood is intent on milking every variation of that tired fairy tale.
The underlying battle lines for Best Teen Drama Queen are written the in script choices and performances of a batch of actresses whose notorious egos continue to balloon with every ticket sold. Julia Stiles is the most pretentious and oldest of the group and, as such, disqualifies herself from being a genuine competitor for the crown. If you saw The Prince and Me and Ella Enchanted, then you know Stiles doesn't hold a pewter candleholder to the more spontaneous and attractive Anne Hathaway. And Kate Bosworth is an automatic DQ because of her proven acting abilities and inestimable allure in films like The Horse Whisperer and Wonderland. She'll next star as Kevin Spacey's wife Sandra Dee in the upcoming Bobby Darin biopic Beyond The Sea.
The main catfight boils down to the Disney-led efforts of budding actresses Anne Hathaway, Mandy Moore, Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan. Each actress is following a path that Disney originally painted for them with throwaway movies like The Parent Trap (1998, Lindsey Lohan), The Princess Diaries (2001, with Anne Hathaway and Mandy Moore), and The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003, Hillary Duff). Mandy Moore looks best suited to break out of the Disney mediocrity machine first, based on her recent script choices of Saved! and John Turturro's upcoming Romance and Cigarettes.
That leaves Hathaway, Duff and Lohan to duke it out for dramatic script choices that will deliver them into a cinematic womanhood wrought with real problems of social responsibility and hard won accomplishments in the face of personal obstacles.
In terms of which of the three actresses wins the crown for Best Teen Drama Queen, that sugarcoated award goes to Anne Hathaway for carrying herself with dignity and integrity while elevating cartoon roles with charm and panache.
Which brings us to the dregs of the Disney cute-girl counter, where Hillary Duff and Lindsay Lohan continue to say yes to bland roles that feed their precocious egos and fill their adolescent audience's heads with silly ideas about their comportment in a world of soul-crushing capitalism.
This time out, in A Cinderella Story, when Sam Montgomery (Duff) corresponds by blind e-mail with a mysterious boy she hopes to meet and mate with, we're given a glimpse into a tortured poetic soul who is, in fact, Austin Ames, the quarterback of the high school football team. Austin is busy dating an air-headed cheerleader with an unduly inflated arrogance that she uses to divert attention from a scar between her eyes. Because Austin is unable to take corrective action by addressing the scar, or its ramifications on his girlfriend's insufferable behavior, he dooms himself to roam the Internet in search of another girl. Austin's inability to take responsibility in his personal relationships is matched by Sam's passive-aggressive nature that insists on waiting for an avoidable crisis that will incite her to speak her mind. However, you can't really apply this kind of adult logic to this kind of movie, and that really is the whole point.