Picture the scene. The clock is about to strike midnight and Cinders must leave Prince Charming before her magic disguise disappears. She runs away from the castle, but in her haste she drops... a mobile phone? Just one of the ill-conceived embellishments in A Cinderella Story, a ham-fisted update of the timeless fairytale set in contemporary California. The result is pure pumpkin, though fans of squeaky-clean, helium-voiced Hilary Duff might fall under its sickly sweet spell.
Orphaned at an early age, teenager Sam Montgomery (Duff) is forced to live with her wicked, Botox-fixated stepmom (Jennifer Coolidge) and her mean-spirited stepsisters. When not tending to their every whim, she works at her late father's restaurant, a job that earns her the unflattering nickname "Diner Girl" at her bitchy all-American high school.
"THE PLOT IS INSULTINGLY STUPID"
With her crappy car, crummy clothes, and geeky best friend Carter (Dan Byrd), Sam lives in a different world to Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray), the school's star quarterback and its most sought-after catch. What Sam doesn't realise is that Austin and the secret pen-pal she's been flirting with online are one and the same. Until, that is, he asks her to be his date at the annual Halloween Ball. What will he say when he realises that the girl of his dreams is just a humble waitress?
There's no point looking for logic here, but even in the tenuous reality established by director Mark Rosman, the plot is insultingly stupid. Whoever heard of a Cinderella with a personal computer? Why would her evil stepmom thwart Sam's plans to attend college when she's clearly sick of the sight of her? And what kind of goof can't recognise his soulmate behind a tiny lace eye-mask? Most of all, though, you'll be asking yourself this: will Hilary Duff ever graduate from high school movies?