Reviewed by: Lacey Mical (Callahan) Walker
|Featuring||Selena Gomez, Andrew Seeley, Jane Lynch, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Marcus T. Paulk, Nicole LaPlaca, Donald Adams, Lynda Boyd, Lorena Gale, Laura Konechny, Camille Mitchell|
|Producer||Neal Dodson, Chris Foss, Michelle Johnston, Damon Santostefano, Dylan Sellers|
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. “Another Cinderella Story”—One can almost hear a sarcastic sigh behind the eye-roll inducing title. Hopes are not elevated for an encounter with a cinematic masterpiece when renting this limited theatrical release/direct to DVD teen flick, however an honest review has uncovered this film as a pleasant surprise hidden behind an unfortunate title.
This twist on the proverbial dead horse is centered around Mary Santiago (Selena Gomez), who is under the guardianship of has-been, aged pop starlet Dominique, after having been orphaned by her mother who was a stage dancer for the demanding diva. Dominique is the mother of two predictably obnoxious, cruel and, yes, ugly sisters, Britt and Bree, and Mary serves as chief cook and bottle washer in the ostentatious home shared by the four women.
Mary’s life is made more bearable by her ever-faithful friend, Tami, who marches to the beat of her own drum by wearing bizarre, hand-made creations and provides a refuge of camaraderie for Mary. In the safety of Tami’s orange VW bus, on the way to and from school each day, the girls confide in one another all their troubles and dreams, with cheesy giggles and teen-screen wisdom in constant supply.
At the start of the film, the high school attended by Mary, Tami, and the evil sisters Britt and Bree is all abuzz due to the return of former student and now teen idol Joey Parker (Andrew Seeley) who, having left the school to pursue a successful career as a singing and dancing pop star, has expressed a desire to “get back to his roots” and rejoin his classmates for his senior year. Fueling the excitement among the female student body is the announcement that Joey will be hosting a dance competition to choose a new cast member for an upcoming music video.
What Britt and Bree are about to find out is Mary, who has been secretly attending the same dance academy as they (by sneaking in through a back window and taking part in the lessons through a two-way mirrored wall in the studio), has inherited her mother’s dancing abilities and is a real competitive force as the girls eagerly attempt to win Joey’s attention—and his heart.
The similarities to the 2004 “…Cinderella Story” starring Hilary Duff are many: Mary’s goal throughout the story is to attend the school of her dreams, and it is achieving this goal which will finally remove her from the home where she is forced into servitude. Mary and Joey’s first face-to-face romantic encounter happens at a masked school dance. Dominique’s character is written very similarly to the one played by Jennifer Coolidge (the salmon fetish of Coolidge’s character is replaced in this version with a lust for crab puffs), although the two ladies play their parts quite differently and equally well. Numerous other comparisons can be made between the two films, but the overall flavor of each is quite different, as are the climaxes.
Another situation which can be found in both of these “Cinderella” stories is the odd choice of casting a young teenage girl opposite a mid-twenties young man. Gomez and Seeley were ages fifteen and twenty-five at the time of filming, and this age difference is glaringly obvious in their appearances. While Seeley’s character, Joey, is a senior in high school and only slightly older than Mary, one wonders why a younger actor was not chosen for his role.
Writers Erik Patterson and Jessica Scott peppered this story with a surprising dose of humor and some pleasing plot twists. Since it is inevitable that the guy will get the girl in this story (or vice versa), they pair up Joey and Mary and unveil the mystery rather early in the film, tossing in some additional obstacles and making the climax not centered on the revealing of Mary’s identity.
The “Cinderell-esque” elements might easily have been left out of the script entirely, and the film more aptly titled “Another Teen Dance Story,” yet one must assume that the same sort of deserved prejudice toward a reluctance to view “another” anything might apply.
Joey is offered a mixed beverage and turns it down, saying, “I don’t drink.”
Joey is sweet and giving toward Mary in their relationship. He treats her with respect, and even spends an entire day helping her with a huge list of chores.
Morally, this story preaches that looks do not matter, but “who you really are” is what matters. This is a good message, yet whether or not this film actually practices what it is preaching is another matter. The “unpopular” heroines, Mary and Tamy, are unquestionably attractive, and it is less than believable that they would be less than popular in any “real life” high school. At the same time, all of the characters in the film which are portrayed as unsavory, rude, mean and socially inept also happen to be unattractive and badly dressed. This is, at best, a mixed message.
The PG-rating is more than warranted, due to the smattering of profanity, including numerous uses of God’s name in vain. There is also some name calling, including the term “Tramp.”
In the opening scene, Mary is shown dancing in a midriff-baring top. The wardrobe is for the most part unusually modest through the rest of the film.
There are a few instances of sexual innuendo, including:
The fifty-something mother Dominique says to Joey, “Let’s duet… du-et… Get it? Du-et?!”
Joey and Mary spend time alone in her bedroom, sit on her bed and sing a song together, and Mary lies down on her back while Joey leans over her (standing) and says, “Let’s pick up again tomorrow, right here…” Mary: You mean cleaning the house or right here in this position?
Joey: I’m not that kind of guy.
Mary: Somehow I find that hard to believe.
Britt says to Joey, “Wanna make out?!”
A teenage boy fawns over Joey, shouting, “I love you so much!” and then vomiting from nervousness as Joey gets near.
A girl dances up against Joey inappropriately. This is barely shown on camera, and he quickly moves away so that she falls onto the floor.
My bottom line, this is a relatively decent and entertaining film, worth renting for teens who are old enough to have formed convictions in the areas of dating, relationships, and not judging people based on looks or popularity. Not recommended for children.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.