To be considered a traditional Cinderella story, unlike the Catskin or Donkeyskin fatherly incestual drama, it must meet a few important qualities.
- There must be a wicked stepmother and two wicked stepsisters
- There must be a ball
- Cinderella must leave something behind for the prince to find and
- The prince must not know who she is until the missing object is restored to its owner
I give you, Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray
In this modern spin-off, there is a significant cellphone, left behind by Hilary Duff at the Halloween dance (ball?) and which it falls on Chad Michael Murray, to return. He searches in vain for his Cinderella while every girl in the high school stakes a claim to cellphone, including Hilary’s two evil stepsisters. Meanwhile, Hilary toils away in her step-mother’s diner, dreaming of her prince but refusing to reveal herself to him.
In this retelling, like many other Cinderella tales, the prince is conflicted. In the classic tales, the prince is lovesick over his future bride, refusing to eat, refusing to see anybody, and driving his poor mother, the queen, insane with worry. In this tale, Chad’s father wants him to be a big football star, but all the unlikely prince wants is to run off to Princeton with his girl. He’s portrayed a sensitive guy who just wants to be understood by his family and his classmates, but is constantly pestered by shallow, vain girls who all want his hand in a committed relationship– the high school equivalent of ‘happily ever after’.
Hilary, in her portrayal of the classic Cinderella, plays one of the more shrewd and careful princesses. She works hard in the diner, but all her money is stolen by her stepmother and stepsisters. She’s sarcastic and witty and holds her own in conversations with the queen bee of the school. However, in her online conversations with Chad, she shows herself as a sensitive and introspective princess as well. When all is said and done, it is through Hilary’s strong sense of self and pride that she discovers her late father’s will and is able to restore the power to herself, and consequently deal with her wicked step family. While the sister’s eyes weren’t plucked out by birds, they were put in their place and made to work off all the money they stole in the diner while the evil stepmother found herself in jail for denying ever having seen the will which she herself had witnessed for.
While this movie is teeny and a little bit ridiculous, it really does have all the elements of a traditional Cinderella story. Working at a diner is not really on the same level as picking up lentils out of ashes, but neither does Hilary have the help of some magical birds. This modern day Cinderella story doesn’t rely so much on the idea of magic as it does on the ingenuity of the characters and the harsh realities of life.