Review Date: April 1, 2011
Released by: Warner
Release date: September 14, 2010
Codec: VC-1, 1080p
Widescreen 1.85 | 16x9: Yes
2004 & 2008
Once in a great long while we, as filmgoers, are treated to a spectacular one-two punch of a film and its sequel that resets the cinematic standards for years to come. Iím talking about the films that represent the beginning of new chapters in American cinema. Star Wars
and Godfather II
. Batman Begins
and Dark Knight
. Now, we can add to that esteemed list: A Cinderella Story
and Another Cinderella Story
. With Hilary Duff, in her most complex and challenging role, we witness the arrival of the greatest young talent since Judy Garland.
Iím sure most readers are familiar with the Brothers Grimm story of Cinderella
(or at least the Disney interpretation of it), so Iíll not beat dead horses by reiterating the basics. Iíll just get right to tell you why these two films represent a singular achievement in the history of American cinema.
A Cinderella Story
From the opening shot of a mystical kingdom and a fairy-tale castle and the reveal that they exist in a snow globe while the story proper is set in reality, to ending where the princess and her prince charming ride off into the sunset not on a horse, but in a convertible, A Cinderella Story
cannily uses our foreknowledge of the story to set up expectations and then takes great joy in smashing those expectations to pieces. By the end, we are left reeling from the sheer virtuosity and audaciousness of the story telling. Itís the greatest narrative oopty-oop since Tarantino gave us Pulp Fiction
The virtuosity of the storytelling is matched measure for measure by the performances. This is the most talent young cast since Coppolaís The Outsiders
. Not enough can be said about 17-year-old (at the time) Hilary Duff. While she showed seeds of greatness as Lizzie Maguire in the eponymous TV show, it wasnít until A Cinderella Story
that we saw those seeds blossom. She combines a sweet earnestness with an undertone of sensuality that redefines boundaries of juvenile performance. She deftly slips from tomboyish loner, to belle of the ball, to jilted would-be lover, to the concluding scenes of the movie where she finds herself. Itís a rallying cry for female empowerment thatís long overdue, asserted with such force that one can see the influence this film will have on future feminist thought.
Chad Michael Murray also gives a career defining performance, taking a stock character and twisting it on its head. Weíve seen a lot of jocks who aim to be something more in teen cinema that the character has become a clichť. But never has an actor subverted clichť so cannily. Murray reveals the wounded heart of a poet in the shell of a warrior with such raw intensity your hair might just be blown back. In any other film his performance would have been the centrepiece but, alas, it canít help but pale in comparison the Duffís magnum opus. I would say itís a shame, but itís really hard to feel bad about such a ground-breaking movie showcasing two dynamic performances.
Director Mark Rosman (House on Sorority Row
) returns to his roots and pulls out all the stops to bring us a genre bending masterpiece. While a teen romance on the surface, Rosman uses his canny knack for composition and montage to show us a deeper, insidious evil that lurks at the heart of the American dream. At once a touching love story, cutting social satire and a peek into the darker side of suburbia, A Cinderella Story
never falters in providing something of value for all audiences.
Another Cinderella Story
I have to admit right off the bat: Another Cinderella Story
is not the same kind of masterpiece as the original film. Itís a different kind of masterpiece, working from a different tradition so the two films, while equally amazing, do not bear direct comparison. While A Cinderella Story
borrowed from the traditions of fairy tales and teen dramas, Another Cinderella Story
pays homage to the current teen dance genre. Drawing influence from such watershed film as Step Up 3D
and You Got Served
, Another Cinderella Story
plunges us headfirst into the dark world of pop music and competitive dance, where young hopefuls ride the razorís edge between catching their dreams and the dark abyss of failure.
Whereas Hilary Duff drew upon her years of experience as Lizzie McGuire to craft the sweet and innocent Sam, Selena Gomez brings a welcome Latin fire to the role of Mary. The diminutive Gomez draws a complex and tortured portrait of a young girl aspiring to follow in the footsteps of her mother, a dancer, while her dreams are crushed under the yoke of her guardian (Jane Lynch
, in her best role yet) and her daughters (Ginger Snaps
sisters Katherine Isabelle
and Emily Perkins
, in tour de force performances). Itís a truly heart-wrenching performance, one that will shake you to your very soul. The only negative mark against her is that she doesnít quite live up to the game-changing performance delivered by Duff in the first movie. Really, though, who could? Itís an unfair standard to hold any actor to and still Gomez rightfully takes her place alongside Duff as the defining actresses of their generation.
Drew Seeley, who appeared in the equally masterful The Shortcut
, appears poised to take from Paul Walker the title of greatest American actor working today (impressive feat, considering Seeley is Canadian!). In Joey Parker, we are given the distillation of male pop singers: the raw sensuality, the charm, and yet are given the rare and delightful opportunity to peek behind the faÁade, to see a boy on the verge of manhood, searching for his place in the world, yet beholden to an industry that will spit him out at the first sign of weakness. He says more with his eyes in three minutes of screen time and Tolstoy said in all his writings. Truly, Joey represents one of the cornerstone performances for the next generation of actors to learn from.
Both films are presented in their original 1:85 aspect ratio and in stunning 1080p. There is not much to say about these transfers except you will be doing your home theatre a disservice by not watching these movies on permanent loop. The Cinderella Story
duo represents the finest home video presentation of any film Iíve ever seen. The picture is amazingly deep and three dimensional, with nary a blemish or compression issue despite both films being on the same disc. High-Def Duff is clearly why Blu-ray was invented.
The audio matches the video pace for pace. Iíve never had the privilege to listen to such enveloping and atmospheric audio as the DTS-HD tracks for the Cinderella Story
movies. You will feel as if youíre right there in the movie when it starts to rain at the end of Cinderella Story
, or feel like youíre front row centre for the climactic dance-off in Another Cinderella Story
. George Lucas, go home. Cinderella Story
is the new audio standard-bearer.
There are no supplements provided, but who needs them? With films this deep and complex, you will spend hours re-watching and analyzing, trying to unlock their mysteries. Thatís the greatest supplement of all.
Let me be perfectly clear about this: if you do not rush out right now and buy the Cinderella Story
double feature then you do not deserve to own a Blu-ray player. Period. There is no excuse for anybody truly committed to the art of cinema not to have these films in their collection. Nor is there any excuse for a committed home theatre enthusiast not to use this disc as their go-to demo material when showing off their pricey hardware. These films are perfection personified, and their presentation in this set is beyond reproach. So awesome is this disc that Iím going to buy a copy for everyone I know. It would be cruel to deprive anybody with a TV the pleasure of sampling the best American cinema has to offer. The Cinderella Story
double feature is a dream come true.
Movies - A+
Image Quality - A+
Sound - A+
Supplements - A+
- Running time - 1 hour and 35 minutes (A Cinderella Story) / 1 hour and 31 minutes (Another Cinderella Story)
- Rated PG, G
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English DTS-HD Audio
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English SDH subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles