Cinderella [2000/II]

If you are one of Hilary Duff's most ardent pre-teen fans, chances are you'll find something to enjoy in A Cinderella Story, but everyone else should proceed with caution. It's an updated fairy tale for the age of instant messaging, which is how Sam (Duff) develops a crush on Austin (Chad Michael Murray) before realizing that this Tennyson-quoting poet-at-heart is actually her San Fernando Valley high school's star quarterback and most desirable hunk. In a role that squanders her proven comedic gifts, Jennifer Coolidge is Sam's Botox-injected evil stepmother, and lame attempts at comedy turn her dimwitted stepsisters into buffoons, like many of the other cast members who struggle to find anything funny in the screenplay. So we're left with the bland, blonde charms of Hilary Duff, who fared better in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, but manages to salvage her mainstream appeal in a comedy for which "cute" is not necessarily a compliment. --Jeff Shannon

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