Once upon a time not so very long ago a young girl named Sam Martin (Hilary Duff) lived in the San Fernando Valley with her widowed father (Whip Hubley). He delighted in reading her fairy tale stories every night, as well as teaching her good values, including standing up for herself. He ran a successful diner and one day, married again to give Sam a mother: a woman named Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge) who had daughters of her own, fraternal twins Brianna (Madeline Zima) and Gabriella (Andrea Avery). And then Sam?s father died in the Northridge earthquake, leaving her alone with her stepmother and two stepsisters. With no will found to speak of, Fiona takes over ownership of the house and the diner, relegating Sam to live in the attic.
Fast forward eight years: Sam has grown into a pretty young senior in high school (who is often lost in the crowd), and must balance mounds of schoolwork, working at the diner, and taking care of her spoiled stepmother?s every whim. While Sam dislikes being made into a ?slave,? she tries to keep her stepmother happy in order to get money to attend Princeton (her dream). She has a text message secret admirer who she communicates with on a regular basis. Along with best friend Carter (Dan Byrd) they attend the school?s Halloween dance ?incognito?, where Sam is set to meet her secret admirer for the first time. Dressed in a never-before-been-worn wedding gown and mask she was loaned by friends, including ?fairy god-mother? Rhonda (played by Regina King, who has worked at the diner since Sam was a child), Sam is ready to meet her Prince Charming.
When Sam discovers that her secret admirer is non other than popular quarterback, Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray), she is sure anything between them would never work out: after all, why would the most popular boy in school be interested in her? They play ?20? Questions (she gives him ?10?) and Austin learns some things about her: just when he is about to lift her mask and discover her true identity, Sam?s cell rings and she runs away, leaving her cell phone behind. Austin begins searching the school to discover his ?Cinderella?s? identity; Austin, although jock-popular boy on the surface, longs to be a writer and attend Princeton (his dad wants him to be a USC man like him). But can he convince the elusive Sam that he likes her for herself? And when fellow seniors discover who Austin?s ?Cinderella? really is, things could get ugly...
This is one of the cleanest films I have seen in ages! With really no language (no strong words were used, and no deity abuses that I caught) and minimal content issues, this is definitely both family-friendly and young child friendly. A few things are very mildly implied: in one instance a young man goes off with a young woman and you are not sure what they are up to (you soon find out they were ?making out? nearby). Other than that, the only objectionable elements come from things like sisters fighting, a small amount of cleavage, a son going against his father?s wishes, teenagers taunting each other, some mild crude humor, and a ?wicked? stepmother who is egotistical and constantly concerned with her appearance.
The thing I liked best about this film was that it was cute and clean. It has fairy tale elements, but also tries to take it from a realistic slant: of course, her secret admirer turning out to be the most popular boy in school is a bit too fairy tale, but certain scenes were pulled off in such a way that I was nicely surprised. I?m not sure if I believe the mask Sam wears would really disguise her so much that Austin wouldn?t recognize her: maybe if he was a completely self-centered jerk, but as we are to believe he is a nice guy, why wouldn?t he recognize the girl he has gone to school with for at least all of high school?! Sam comes across as almost too unassuming and ?whipped? by her stepmother at times, but I think anyone can appreciate her patience and forbearance in dealing with her difficult ?family.? Sam is really that girl-next-door you like to love.
A ?tween? re-make and update of the classic Cinderella tale, A Cinderella Story, while predictable and not entirely original, was enjoyable and a fun diversion from the everyday crush of Hollywood films. I especially appreciated (and think you will too!) how clean this film is: once in awhile Hollywood realizes that there are people out there who appreciate a storyline and film that have some good morals and leave out the muck: this is one they finally got right!