A Cinderella Story

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A Cinderella Story
A young man and a young woman standing in front of a white background. The man wears a grey shirt with black sleeves, blue jeans and black sneakers with white shoelaces. The woman, being carried on his back, wears a white tiara, white ballgown and pink-and-white sneakers with white shoelaces. On their image, the text "A Cinderella Story " is written in blue print, with the phrase "Once upon a time... can happen anytime" is written in black print to their right.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Rosman
Produced by
  • Clifford Werber
  • Ilyssa Goodman
  • Hunt Lowry
  • Dylan Sellers
Written by Leigh Dunlap
Starring Paul Rodriguez
Music by Christophe Beck
Cinematography Anthony B. Richmond
Edited by Cara Silverman
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • July 16, 2004 (2004-07-16)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million[1]
Box office $70.1 million

A Cinderella Story is a 2004 American teen romantic comedy film. The film stars Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Coolidge, and Regina King and was directed by Mark Rosman. The film's plot revolves around two Internet pen pals (Duff and Murray) who meet at a school dance and fall in love but two different worlds keep them apart. It received negative reviews from critics, but was a commercial success. The film was followed by two direct to video sequels, Another Cinderella Story and A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song.


Ten-year old Samantha "Sam" Montgomery (Hilary Duff) lives in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, with her widowed father Hal (Whip Hubley), who runs a popular sports-themed diner. Hal soon marries a vain, self-absorbed woman named Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge). During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Hal is killed when he runs to save Fiona. Supposedly he has left no will, so Fiona receives all of his belongings, including the house, the diner, and to her dismay, Sam.

Eight years later, Sam (Hilary Duff) is employed as a waitress at the diner to save money to attend Princeton University, but she is regularly tormented by Fiona and her dim-witted fraternal twin daughters, Brianna (Madeline Zima) and Gabriella (Andrea Avery). Fiona emotionally abuses Sam and uses unnecessary amounts of water during a drought. A running gag throughout the film demonstrates Sam's stepsisters participating in synchronized swimming, for which they are found to have absolutely no talent. Sam struggles to cope socially at North Valley High School, where queen bee Shelby Cummings (Julie Gonzalo), also torments her and calls her "Diner Girl" along with other members of the popular clique.

Sam confides in her online pen pal "Nomad" about her dream to attend Princeton, a dream which he also shares. However, "Nomad"'s true identity is Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray), the popular, yet unhappy, quarterback of the school's football team, and Shelby's boyfriend (although Austin broke up with her, she chooses to ignore it). "Nomad" proposes that they meet in person at the school's Halloween themed home coming dance. Initially reluctant, Sam is convinced by her best friend, Carter Ferrell (Dan Byrd), to go to the dance and meet her mysterious online friend. On the night of the dance, Fiona orders Sam to work the night shift at the diner, then leaves to drive Brianna and Gabriella to the dance.

Carter, Rhonda (Regina King), Sam's other best friend, and the rest of the diner's staff convince her to disobey Fiona and go to the dance anyway. Carter and Rhonda take Sam to find a costume for the dance. Sam, wearing a mask and a beautiful white dress, meets "Nomad" at the dance, and is surprised and shocked to learn that he is Austin, who had become smitten with her upon her entrance. The two decide to leave the party to walk alone and get to know each other a little better. While sharing a romantic dance, Sam and Austin begin to fall in love. But just as Austin is about to unmask her, Sam's cell phone alarm goes off, warning her to return to the diner before Fiona comes back at midnight. She leaves without revealing her identity to Austin, and drops her phone on her way out.

Austin picks up her phone and begins a desperate search to figure out who his "Cinderella" really is, but every girl at the dance claims to be the mysterious owner of the phone. Sam is reluctant to reveal her identity to Austin, feeling that he won't accept her due to her being an outsider. When Austin comes into the diner one day, Sam is forced to help him and, after a talk, she attempts to reveal her identity to him, but is cut off by Fiona. Sam's stepsisters find out about Sam and Austin's email relationship, and (after having failed to convince Austin that one of them is the owner of the phone) convince Shelby that Sam tried to steal Austin from her. During a pep rally, Sam's identity is revealed to Austin. Hurt by Sam's secrecy, Austin does nothing as she is humiliated in front of the school, and Sam believes he betrayed her.

Like Austin, Sam had been accepted to Princeton, only to be duped by Fiona into believing she was rejected. Sam then decides to give up her dreams and resigns herself to working at the diner, but Rhonda gives Sam a pep talk. When her stepsisters come in, they slam the door, causing a guitar to fall off the wall, taking the wallpaper down with it. Sam then sees her father's words, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game," and regains her confidence (in real life this quote came from Babe Ruth). She stands up to Fiona, quits her job at the diner, and moves out to live with Rhonda. Rhonda and the entire diner's staff quit along with Sam, having only put up with Fiona's abuse all those years after Hal died for Sam's sake. The customers, who watched the whole scene, leave the diner as well.

Before a school football game, Sam confronts Austin about his cowardice and lies. Before the final play of the game, he sees Sam making her way out of the stands, and finally stands up to his father, saying he wants to attend Princeton rather than simply play football all his life. He hands his helmet to his teammate, Ryan Henson (J.D. Pardo), then chases after Sam and apologizes. She accepts his apology and they share their first kiss as rain falls over the drought-plagued valley. Soon after, Sam finds Hal's will hidden in her childhood fairytale book, stating that all of his belongings belong to her. Sam sells her step-family's fancy cars so that she can pay for college, and Fiona, who signed the will as a witness but claims she never saw that will, is arrested after being chased through the front yard of what is now Sam's house by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Fiona, Brianna and Gabriella are made to work off the money they stole from Sam at the diner, which is restored to its former glory by its new owners, Sam and Rhonda. Sam finds that she was in fact accepted by Princeton; the acceptance letter was found in the garbage by her stepsisters. Also, Austin's father comes to accept his son's desire to attend Princeton. Things even work out in the end for Carter as he makes a commercial for acne medication. After being dumped by Austin, Shelby then makes a play for Carter, only to be spurned in favor of the school's DJ, Astrid (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick). The film ends with Sam and Austin, now officially a couple, driving off to Princeton together.



A Cinderella Story received generally negative reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 11%, based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 3.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An uninspired, generic updating of the classic fairy tale."[2] On Metacritic, the film has a score on 25 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[3] Roger Ebert called A Cinderella Story "a lame, stupid movie".[4]

The film was nominated for five Teen Choice Awards at the 2005 ceremony, winning the award for Choice Movie Blush Scene, the same year Duff won the Kids Choice Awards for Favorite Movie Actress. But Duff also received in 2005 a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress nomination.

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $13,623,350 in 2,625 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #4 at the box office, behind I, Robot, Spider-Man 2 and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, was the best debut for an Teen film that week. By the end of its run, A Cinderella Story grossed $51,438,175 domestically and $18,629,734 internationally, totaling $70,067,909 worldwide.[1]



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