May 12, 2006 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | May 12, 2006 |


Directed by Mark Rosman with all the talent you’d see at a William Hung karaoke contest, A Cinderella Story is flaccid, sloppy, lazy, and idiotic. It’s also no damned good, even for the tweenage girls it’s intended for, or the flu-ridden twentysomething merely looking for a guilty pleasure to help sweat out an illness; in fact, A Cinderella Story is positively fever-inducing, the kind of movie that might turn a simple cold into pneumonia.

The movie follows Sam (Duff), a high school student who slaves away at her late father’s diner, awaiting her Prince Charming (Chad Michael Murray), in the form of the school’s poet laureate disguised as the captain of the football team. They come across one another online, unaware of each other’s identity, and finally meet during the Halloween Dance, where Sam is disguised(!), and is forced to flee before the Prince can cop a feel.

Oh, oh, if only the gruesome spirit of Grimm had survived in A Cinderella Story or had Saw’s James Wan directed the updated fairy tale, this torture could have at least been accompanied by appropriate levels of gore and dismemberment; instead, we are reviled with gag-inducing text messages, the insufferable visage of Stifler’s Mom, and a bastardization of the spirit of Jon Cryer’s Duckie.

If it were possible, I’d include a litany of spoilers here, just to save you from the film’s misery; unfortunately, the rest of the movie is so painfully bland and predictable that there’s nothing left that hasn’t already been spoiled. Will Cinderella find her Prince Charming? Will Regina King regret ever appearing in this sad excuse for a film? Will the bitchy, Botoxed step-mom, the wicked step-sisters, and the popular plasticine cheerleaders get their comeuppance? You bet; but not before you get yours.

If sitting through A Cinderella Story isn’t sadistic enough for you, you might consider extending the marathon by popping Hilary Duff’s latest, Raise Your Voice, into your DVD, where you will be greeted with a high-school choir version of “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog,” a song that’s only half as excruciating as the rest of the film.

Unlike A Cinderella Story, in Voice, Hilary Duff’s small-town character, Terri, begins as a popular high-schooler and works her way backwards after getting accepted into a music conservatory in LA with the help of her older brother (Jason Ritter), who appears to have a borderline incestuous crush on his little sis. That love, unfortunately, is not to be; big brother bites it in a fiery car accident 10 minutes into the film, providing Terri’s impetus to lie to her father and leave her home town. Don’t hold back, Hilary! Don’t give up! (Those of you still watching Raise Your Voice at this point, however, might consider doing just that).

In LA, Terri meets a couple of washed-up television actors/music teachers (“The Fresh Prince of Bel Air“‘s James Avery and “Sex and the City“‘s John Corbett, who finally found a way to signal to the rest of the world that he’s given up on respectability); but all is not well at the music conservatory. Suddenly, Terri is overmatched by the talent of the other students, overwhelmed by the workload, and stuck in a dorm room with the movie’s token black person, who, of course, is just the sort of African-American caricature (poor, sassy) one would find in a movie as whitebread as Voice.

All is not lost, however; Terri develops a bit of a crush on spikey-haired Jay (Oliver James), who is brave enough to ignore the fact that Duff has no neck and takes her on a long walks on the beach, reinvigorating her passion for music and, more importantly, allowing the cast to assail us with more self-help platitudes: Don’t hold back! Don’t give up! Plunge that knife all the way through your heart! Alas, Raise Your Voice folds in the mistaken kiss, the weeping, the shredded diary, the bland Keane musical bridge, the drunken apology, and the poorly lip-synced finale, mercifully concluding another Hilary Duff vehicle that is better than its predecessor only in that it’s two minutes shorter.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

A Cinderella Story and Raise Your Voice / Dustin Rowles

Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()






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