A Cinderella Story
Follow your dreams. Stick up for yourself. Don't be cruel. Be a good friend. Stop caring so much about what people think of you. A Cinderella Story's themes are as tried-and-true as the story it's based on. Sam's best friend, Carter, supports her through thick and thin, even though it seems like he'd rather not share her with some randomly appointed punk prince. Sam returns the favor. High school football star Austin Ames, who turns out to be Sam's hunk in shining armor, pushes aside popularity and schoolyard preeminence to declare his love for Sam. She, meanwhile, refuses to settle for second-best, demanding that he give her everything—respect, affection, devotion and public adoration—or walk away.
Early scenes show how important the bond between a father and a daughter is. Dad teaches Sam how to live life to the fullest, and reinforces his favorite mantra: "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." Sam compliments a woman for being able to take simple things and make them beautiful. Negative actions used to reinforce positive themes include a mean-spirited pep rally skit designed to humiliate Sam, the obsession the ugly-on-the-inside Fiona has with her outward appearance and the stepsisters' jealous flounderings.
High school girls wear bikini swimsuits, short skirts and reveal cleavage. While trying to find Sam an appropriate costume for the Halloween dance, Carter points out a sexy leather get-up, then nearly passes out when he sees her in a Hawaiian-style grass skirt and coconut top. Couples kiss passionately. Austin's friends ogle girls in the hallway, making mildly rude comments ("Hello Kitty!") as they pass.
Pushing, shoving and tripping, mostly. To stop a guy from chasing him, Carter whacks him in the face with a swinging bar-counter door. A huge neon sign crushes a car. Brianna and Gabriella get into a fight over Austin, grappling with each other on top of a car that is going through an automatic wash.
Crude or Profane Language
"H---" is heard once in a background song. Another mild profanity ("d--n") is used in dialogue. God's name pops out as an interjection a few times. "Jeez" is said once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
No primary characters smoke, drink, do drugs or talk about drugs.
Other Negative Elements
Most of the major teen movie stereotypes are in place in this one. Parents are clueless. Teachers are dorks. (One scene shows food flying out of a teacher's mouth as he clumsily eats an apple.) Cheerleaders are snots. Jocks are crass.
Fiona and her daughters drive recklessly, causing several near-misses. One of the sisters is seen passing gas in the swimming pool. A joke is made about a girl using laxatives. A cheerleader tells a boy that the only time he's worth noticing is when she copies his work in Algebra II class. Sam barges into the boys' locker room while they're changing for a football game. (Nobody's naked.) A nude Fiona gets out of a tanning bed. (She puts on a towel before the camera shows her body.)
I'll approach the subject of Sam's disobedience gently, with the understanding that inside the context of a Cinderella story, it's certainly understandable, if not sometimes necessary. It's noted that for her whole life, Sam has obeyed without question, even when she's taken advantage of and abused with excessive work requirements. Then, finally, when she's a senior in high school, she snaps and begins to defy the dictatorial orders of her stepmom. Once, she leaves work to attend the dance. (Mitigating her offense further, the diner's manager insists that she do it.) And later, she takes a stand against Fiona, stating flatly, "I'm quitting this job. I'm quitting this family." And she does, moving her things out of the house and taking up residence with an adult friend (the diner's manager).
In A Cinderella Story Hilary Duff brings along with her quite a bit of the charm she exuded during her Lizzie McGuire years. And while the structure of this film's plot follows that of the age-old Cinderella fairy tale, its feel is that of a half-hour Disney series. (Not so surprising considering its director helmed more than a dozen episodes of Lizzie McGuire, State of Grace and Even Stevens.) Its moral? Happily ever after only comes to those who make it happen for themselves. Princes will fail you. Moms will neglect you. Friends may even flake out on you. But none of that matters if you do the right thing, conserve water, watch out for the less fortunate and go to the college of your choice.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Hilary Duff as Sam; Chad Michael Murray as Austin; Jennifer Coolidge as Fiona; Dan Byrd as Carter; Regina King as Rhonda; Julie Gonzalo as Shelby; Madeline Zima as Brianna; Andrea Avery as Gabriella; Whip Hubley as Sam's Dad; Kevin Kilner as Austin's Dad
Mark Rosman ( The Perfect Man)