Another Cinderella Story (2008)
Director: Damon Santostefano
Screenwriter: Eric Patterson, Jessica Scott
Starring: Selena Gomez, Drew Seeley, Jane Lynch
It has got to be tough to have the weight of the Cinderella legacy on your shoulders as you make yet another modern retelling. How can one possibly innovate with such a defined and iconic story? What elements can be incorporated to give it relevance to the contemporary youth? The answer here seems to be, “I don’t know. Uhm, copy the Disney Channel?”.
Another Cinderella Story, a direct-to-DVD sequel to 2004’s A Cinderella Story, put rising Disney star Selena Gomez with C-list heartthrob Drew Seeley for a song-and-dance high school melodrama in the basic framework of the Cinderella folktale. Gomez plays Mary Santiago, a maid/adopted daughter of an aging singer. Seeley plays Joey Parker, a pop idol who is returning to high school for his senior year. This natural pairing is built on a love for music, exclusively.
There are no excuses for characters this flat. Mary is about as bland as Bella Swan, more a surrogate husk the teen viewers can project onto rather than an actual character with agency, desire and/or emotion. She wants to go get into dance school, but does nothing to get in. We see her get a letter inviting her to audition, her guardian lies and says she can’t go, then she does nothing proactive in regards to her admission status. She’s even driven around by other people when she needs to go places. There is no point during the film’s duration where this changes, either. The lead goes from virtual slavery without a boyfriend to attending dance school with a boyfriend.
Our editor Joseph Wade tweeted about the focus on males in rom-com movies, and that trope is prevalent in this movie. Joey is way more than a prince should be in a Cinderella story, and he isn’t even interesting. He can dance and sing, but that’s about all he can do. He interrupts lunch periods and classes with his nonsensical quest to find the mystery girl he danced with. It doesn’t help that Seeley isn’t exactly Zac Efron (though he did play his singing voice in High School Musical) when the film wants you to think he’s the sexiest man to ever live.
The worst part about this movie is that it’s paced terribly. The film is building to a dance competition, where you assume Mary will dance, impress the dude, and he’ll realize that she’s Cinderella. The ball scene happens early in Act 2 and they end up dating pretty quickly after. He helps her to do her chores in a montage, and then there’s conflict that breaks them up at the end of Act 2. It makes no sense to have all of that happen so early, especially because that’s the whole Cinderella thing. It would have been cool to see her overcome her fear or anxiety and go dance in front of everyone to win the competition through her own work, but instead Joey makes her come on stage and dance; she didn’t even enter!
The only good thing about this movie is Jane Lynch. She leans into her evil step-mother character, acting as a drunk, washed up pop star that is trying to get back into the spotlight by using Joey. She brilliantly portrays the vanity and desperation of the character, and it has to be easy to be one-note. There’s no redemption or repentance for her; she’s throwing out zingers even as Mary piles into a van to leave. I genuinely laughed at her delivery of some pretty terrible lines. I hope she was paid a pile of cash for this pile of trash.
Another Cinderella Story is derivative of the already derivative, and while it’s about as competent technically as you’d expect for a direct-to-DVD/TV movie, that isn’t enough to mean anything. The lack of creativity keeps this film from even reaching the relative heights of its 2004 predecessor. All that said, this is a fine, crappy movie to have on Netflix as background noise, or to roast with your friends as you reminisce on the music and fashion sensibilities of 2008 Disney/Disney clones.