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Movie Review

Cinderella inhabits the body of Jennifer Lopez in this sweet, but predictable rags-to-riches romance. You’ve seen the story before. Poor girl meets rich boy. Girl pretends to be somebody she’s not. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl and boy are rudely ripped apart. Boy and girl find one another again and live happily ever after. In this case it’s Lopez’ Marisa Ventura, a Manhattan hotel maid, who pulls the wool over Senate hopeful Christopher Marshall’s eyes and earns his undying affection for doing so. He first encounters her when she’s decked out in fancy duds she has "borrowed" from a penthouse suite. He’s attracted to her beauty and unaffected poise. She, in turn, swoons over his wit, respectful attentiveness and gentlemanly air. Trouble awaits them, however, in the form of the woman Marisa finds herself impersonating. When the wealthy hotel guest gets wise to her dowdy doppelganger, she alerts the manager. Marisa is, of course, promptly fired, and the ever-present paparazzi surrounding Chris smell scandal. But popping flash bulbs and disparate bank balances are no match for true love.

positive elements: Every person has worth. Money, prestige and fame do not a valuable person make. Every person should dream big and reach for the stars. "What we do does not define who we are," a wise co-worker proclaims. "What defines us is what we do after [failing]." Chris is to be commended, not for his Senate bid, but for his caring spirit and teachable heart. Marisa may be looked down upon by some because she is a maid, but this film makes it clear that she is every bit Chris’ equal. Moviegoers are urged to never let money or race or social status keep them from finding love or valuing the relationships they already have. Marisa’s friend pushes her to fulfill her potential at every turn. "These are our golden years," she says. "We’ve got to prove our mothers wrong." She urges Marisa to apply for a management position when it becomes available, and when Marisa shows reluctance to make the leap, she pushes even harder. Marisa adores her son, Ty, and besides showing him a great deal of affection, turns her life inside-out to be there for him when he needs her. While she’s reticent about making her own big decisions, she gives Ty solid advice and encourages him to be the best he can be. Chris also shares wisdom and encouragement with Ty, letting him in on his own secret for overcoming nervousness before a public speech.

Marisa lies to Chris about her economic status, and is ultimately rewarded for it. But she realizes that what she’s doing in wrong. She even uses her own circumstances to try to teach Ty that dishonesty isn’t always an active vice; it can also be a sin of omission.

spiritual content: Marisa crosses herself. Her friend berates her for feeling guilt because she is "such a Catholic."

nudity and sexual content: Sadly, this Cinderella’s romance isn’t complete without sex. Marisa and Chris tangle up in the sheets just days after meeting. Circumspect editing keeps viewers from seeing anything (a kiss beforehand segues into a shot of Marisa slipping out of the bed in the morning), but the message is clear: love plus dating equals sex. Elsewhere, a nude man appears on a hotel security camera (he’s seen from the back), and another hotel guest flashes Marisa and her cleaning partner (he’s seen from the waist up). The maids are shown changing into their uniforms, giving moviegoers glimpses of panties and bras. A couple of women flaunt cleavage. To shock a woman in the elevator, Chris jokes about inviting her to join them for a threesome. Subtle jokes reference Jennifer Lopez’ famous backside, and Marisa stammers through a few double entendres about "sitting on Chris’ face" when she uses a magazine bearing his image to keep her suit clean. A few crass comments are made about losing one’s virginity, eagerness to have sex and sexual anatomy.

violent content: It’s more of a vignette than a full-blown scene, but a woman throws what looks like a houseplant at her husband for cheating on her.

crude or profane language: Three or four s-words are accompanied by close to 10 mild profanities. Far worse are the film’s frequent misuses of the Lord’s name. About 25 instances include vigorous exclamations of "Jesus Christ" and "godd--n."

drug and alcohol content: Wine is served at lunches and dinners. The hotel staff talks about the alcoholic needs of various guests. Background characters smoke cigarettes.

other negative elements: It’s made known through Marisa’s conversations with her son that she either never married, is divorced or is separated from her son’s father. His absence isn’t lamented in any way other than in how it affects Ty. His existence certainly doesn’t color Marisa’s newfound romance, but the specifics are too sketchy for any real conclusions to be drawn. Thankfully, Marisa does her best to insulate Ty from the damage such a detached father can do while never insulting or berating the unseen man in front of the child. I should mention that just because Marisa lectures Ty on the virtues of honesty doesn’t mean her dishonest actions are somehow more noble. Maid in Manhattan would have you think just that. When Marisa is exposed for who she really is and the hotel fires her for borrowing guests’ things, viewers are asked to think of hotel management as uncaring and rigid.

conclusion: No twists. No turns. No imagination. The morals are mostly solid. The acting is at worst, reasonable. The sentiments are silky and sweet. But the story is so lacking in depth and creativity that all you have left to fill the screen is J.Lo’s glow. That may be enough for hardcore fans, but it left me feeling unsatisfied. It’s like hearing some generic love song on the radio. If it’s fun and catchy, you might find yourself humming a few bars the next day, but you’d be hard pressed to remember what the song was actually about.


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