In the case of this Cinderella update it's the audience that's turned into a pumpkin. Of all the ill-conceived retellings of this rags-to-riches saga, STROKE OF MIDNIGHT must be the flattest and least inspired.
Set in the world of Parisian haute couture, Salvitore (Rob Lowe) is a designer who's running out of ideas. Will he never notice his plain-Jane dressing-room assistant Kelly Carter (Jennifer Grey)? When will he have the good sense to let Kelly create the shoes that will accessorize the overpriced
fashion monstrosities he concocts? Voila! A directionless fairy godmother named Wanda (Andrea Ferreol) comes to Kelly's aid after the would-be princess of pumps kindly gives her street directions. Since shy Kelly would never have the nerve to approach dreamboat Salvitore, it's a lucky break that
the fairy godmother imbues a pair of the young woman's high heels with magical powers.
Stunned by stinging reviews of his latest collection, Salvitore goes off in search of a new supermodel. Why not throw a ball, suggests the fairy godmother, who also turns up briefly on Salvitore's doorstep. In addition to every mannequin wannabee in Paris, the regally transformed Kelly shows up
at Salvitore's party. Immediately, he's smitten with this radiant woman who calls herself Prudence. At midnight, Kelly flees in a cab driven by the fairy godmother. Caught in a double bind, Kelly must pretend to be the next Paulina or Carol Alt while still promoting her own shoemanship with the
prodding of her gal pal Veronique (Elizabeth Vitali). Eventually Salvitore sees Kelly's inner beauty and renounces the sleek Cinderella packing of "Prudence." After all, a savvy shoe designer is a find whereas beautiful models are a dime a dozen.
Alternately sticky sweet and mean-spirited, this congealed romantic comedy can best be described as a perversion of Cinderella. Despite a few cute touches such as having the fairy godmother turn up in different disguises, STROKE OF MIDNIGHT emerges as amateur night on the Left Bank. Appallingly
overacted by a supporting cast that leaves no take undoubled, the film's only thespic bright spots are supplied by Ferreol as the addled fairy godmother and the vivacious Vitali as Veronique, who actually takes over too many functions that should be the province of the fairy godmother. Since
special effects were not factored into the budget, Kelly's transformations are accomplished by light-flickering blackouts; like so much of the film, we're faced with just another example of shortchanging the audience.
What the film offers in abundance is a steady stream of plot flaws suggesting that the filmmakers don't understand that even a silly farce has to adhere to its own rules of logic. Why does Kelly stupidly put herself into that PRISONER OF ZENDA dilemma so that she has to switch identities
constantly? Why is there no modern-day equivalent of the pumpkin and mice transformed into the coach and coachman? Why does the film only appropriate bits and pieces of Cinderella to suit its own feeble-minded purpose? Why is the fairy godmother given such peripheral treatment? Would Kelly's best
friend really not recognize her after she has been glamorized? It is a measure of this comedy's ineptitude that Grey looks better as an ugly duckling than she does as a swan. Once transformed, Grey resembles an unsophisticated five year-old playing dress-up. Worse than Grey, who has an appealing
gamine quality in her best moments, is Lowe who exhibits no flair for comedy whatsoever. Snippy instead of haughty, simpering instead of lovestruck, he comes across as the up-and-coming head of the House of Mr. Blackwell.
With two inadequate leads, cloddish direction, generic music, and hideous costuming, STROKE OF MIDNIGHT is a smug, spirit-dampening fairytale. Watching it is like seeing poor Cinderella turned back into a rag-bedecked drab right in front of everyone at the ball. Lacking the vigor and splashy
visuals that might attract younger audiences, it also lacks the wit and glamor that would attract lovers of romantic comedy valentines. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG
- Review: In the case of this Cinderella update it's the audience that's turned into a pumpkin. Of all the ill-conceived retellings of this rags-to-riches saga, STROKE OF MIDNIGHT must be the flattest and least inspired. Set in the world of Parisian haute couture,… (more)