The latest in a countless line of retellings of the "Cinderella" tale (see previously Drew Barrymore's "Ever After"), the creatively titled "A Cinderella Story" stars Hilary Duff as Sam, a young girl who lost her father in an Earthquake. Having lost her best friend, she's now stuck with her worst enemies: her evil stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge) and idiotic, evil stepsisters (Madeline Zima and Andrea Avery.)
Attempting to work at her dad's diner (now run by stepmother Fiona) and get good enough grades at school to go to Princeton, Sam remains something of an outcast - people who do know her only refer to her as "diner girl". However, she starts trading IMs with a "mystery guy" from school, who turns out to be the captain of the football team, Austin (Chad Michael Murray).
Things don't exactly go as planned when Sam manages to sneak out from work to try and go to the dance. Wearing a mask to conceal her identity since she's afraid that the kids will reject her, Sam flees before Austin can figure out who she is. Her dropped cell phone is the only clue left. He puts up flyers seeking her out, she thinks he'd reject her because she's not what he's looking for.
While somewhat better than I'd expected, "Cinderella Story" doesn't have anything original about it - it doesn't do anything particularly inventive with the Cinderella tale, and the supporting characters are cartoonish. With Duff's squeaky-clean image, the film chooses to go with inane PG-rated one-liners; there's really no edge to the proceedings. Finally, the thin plot doesn't effectively fill the 95-minute running time and, as a result, the picture drags at times.
However, the performances aren't bad. Duff usually just goes through roles smiling sweetly (and rather vacantly), but she actually offers a moderately enjoyable performance here. Despite the fact that she's prettier than most girls at the school, the actress portrays the insecurities of the character decently. She also has good chemistry with Murray. Supporting performances by Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge and others are also satisfactory.
Although it's largely bland and predictable, "Cinderella Story" manages some cute moments and the performances are decent. It's not an ambitious effort in the slightest and the target audience should desire more from their entertainment, but it may serve as a decent time-waster.
VIDEO: "Cinderella Story" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (there's also a pan & scan edition available). The film itself isn't exactly visually rich - it's shot like a TV movie - but this DVD presents it all well. Sharpness and detail are perfectly fine, as the picture boasts pleasing crispness and definition.
Oddly enough, mild grain appears inconsistently. Aside from that, the print was in fine condition, with essentially no specks or marks visible. Some light edge enhancement was noticed at times, as were a trace or two of pixelation. Colors looked bright and vivid, with no smearing and fine saturation.
SOUND: "Cinderella Story" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio essentially follows expectations, with the rear speakers only providing some minor ambience - really, the only time I noticed the surrounds coming into play was during a driving sequence - aside from that, they remained silent. Audio quality remained fine, as dialogue was crisp and natural, while sound effects and music were clean-sounding.
EXTRAS: "Hanging with Hilary and Friends" is a commentary track with actress Hilary Duff, who's joined by the actresses who play the stepsisters, Chad Michael Murray and the actor who plays Duff's friend in the picture. There's little production information offered throughout the track, but fans of the film will find stories from the set and the group laughing and joking about the film as it passes by.
Aside from the commentary, we also get a brief "making of", the "Our Lips Are Sealed" music video from Hilary and Haylie Duff, an interactive game, screen tests, a couple minutes worth of additional scenes, a PSA and the theatrical trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Cinderella Story" is good-hearted, has moments and the perofrmances are okay, but the story never makes much of an attempt to make this more imaginative, edgy or fresh. Warner Brothers provides a fine DVD, with good audio/video quality and supplements that will appeal to the target audience. Those interested may want to try a rental.