What the world has been waiting for: a new, up-to-the-minute version of the ever-popular rags-to-riches fantasy. All right, perhaps the world wasn't waiting. But this fluffy fairy tale gives teen queen Hilary Duff — ruler of the preteen audience by virtue of her pop songs, clothing line and accessories a chance to exercise the highly marketable adorableness that captivates her core fanbase. They'll be entertained, but viewers outside her demographic will find only the occasional shining moment in this generic picture. As a young girl, Sam (Hannah Robinson) loved two things: fairy tales and her father, diner owner Hal (Whip Hubley). He advises that if Sam wants to meet her prince she should study hard and go to Princeton — because naturally, that's where all princes go. But Hal's sudden death leaves Sam bereft and in the custody of wicked stepmother Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge), who banishes the tomboyish preteen to the attic. Years later, Fiona and her own beloved-but-gawky daughters, Brianna (Madeline Zima) and Gabriella (Andrea Avery), are living in the lap of luxury while Sam (Hilary Duff) caters to their every whim and struggles to save money for college by working at Hal's Diner, which now belongs to the selfish Fiona. The most popular girl in school, Shelby (Julie Gonzalo), taunts Sam; and Shelby's reluctant beau, swoonworthy quarterback Austin (Chad Michael Murray), doesn't know Sam's alive. Only Rhonda (Regina King), the sassy manager of Hal's; Sam's loyal best pal, Carter (Dan Byrd); and her secret cyberadmirer, "Nomad," seem to understand her plight. All that keeps Sam going is the thought of attending the Halloween homecoming dance with Nomad, who shares her Princeton obsession. When the big night arrives, everything goes wrong: Sam doesn't have a costume and she has to work. Fortunately, Rhonda steps in to cover and even conjures up a beautiful dress and a decorative mask. All's well until the magic moment arrives and Sam is shocked to discover her Prince Charming's real identity. He's Austin! Will he be disappointed to learn that Sam is his mystery pen pal, or will they live happily ever after? Duff is cute, if slightly unbelievable as a wallflower, and Murray is bland but suitably dreamy; it would have been nice, though, if a real-life fairy godmother had granted them the gift of on-screen chemistry. Still, the supporting cast's comic abilities smooth over many — if not all — of the movie's flaws.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG
- Review: What the world has been waiting for: a new, up-to-the-minute version of the ever-popular rags-to-riches fantasy. All right, perhaps the world wasn't waiting. But this fluffy fairy tale gives teen queen Hilary Duff — ruler of the preteen audience by virtue… (more)