Running Time: 97 mins.
Rated: Rated PG
There are several archetypal stories which are told over and over again, in different guises and adapted for different eras: the Frankenstein doctor and monster, for instance, or Beauty and the Beast. And, of course, Cinderella. This Cinderella lives in California, now, where, as the DJ announces, you are not judged by who you are but by what you wear.
Samantha - Sam - has a wonderful father, who reads his motherless daughter fairy stories. For her sake (there could be no other reason), he marries the impossible Fiona who has two impossible non-identical twin daughters. They loathe Sam so, when her father dies heroically in an earthquake and Fiona inherits his popular diner, it is slaving away in the diner for Sam while the ugly sisters have synchronised swimming lessons and cat-fight. Fiona, who is not the brightest bulb in California and who mistakes the fashion pages and cosmetic surgery for class, makes life difficult for Sam. Difficult, but not impossible, because she has an eccentric friend (who will be the mice equivalent taking her to the high school dance), is loved by those who work at the diner (where Regina King will be the godmother who gives her a dress) and who has a chat-room relationship with a Princeton charming, where she hopes to study.
The parallels are amusing, especially as these days she could not lose her slipper but certainly could drop her locked mobile phone. Actually, the potential prince has more than enough troubles of his own since he is just like those heroic jocks that Freddie Prinze has played, great at football but a secret poet within, with his yob peer followers and tagged by the blonde cheerleader - who, with her little court are yet more mean girls,
Hillary Duff is lively and sweet as Sam. The music swells when Chad Michael Murray appears so you know he has to be the prince, despite appearances, though one warms to him. The most enjoyable part of the film is watching Jennifer Coolidge as Fiona, crass as they come but obviously relishing this opportunity to create a tanned and pastel screen monster-mother.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.