By Kevin Muller
There have been countless adaptations of the Cinderella story. From the famous 1950 animated Disney film to numerous live action versions. The story of a good-hearted gal, who lives with her vile stepfamily, then becomes a princess, has charmed generations of young girls. This time, the story’s setting gets an American Mid-Western spin. Does the charm remain?
One of the many changes the film contains is the name of its main character. Finley, who is our Cinderella, lives on a big and beautiful Idaho ranch with her stepmother, Valerian, and her stepsiblings, Saffron and Kale. Yes, Kale is a boy who has been swapped out for one of stepsisters from the original story. The plot kicks forward when it is discovered that a big screen musical version of “Billy the Kid” is coming to their small town of Dreary. Additionally, the production will be holding a town wide audition for parts in the film. Of course, the selfish stepfamily jumps at the opportunity to have their time in the spotlight. Finley, who possesses a beautiful voice, she opens the movie with a song surrounded by the only friends, the animals on the farm, has a desire to try out too. Of course, the family tries to prevent their personal slave from showing what she has got. Through a series of events, she makes it to the audition, only to fail hard in front of the film’s male star, Jackson Stone. Even though she blows her shot, Jackson becomes enraptured with Finley, due to her beauty and that she can rope better than the production’s clumsy stuntman, Kenny. Finley then has the idea of posing as a boy named, Huck Finn, to both get closer to Jackson and become a part of the production. She auditions again and blows the crew away. What transpires is a collection of comical incidents that perfectly plays into the family picture algorithm.
Director Michelle Johnston, who has directed two other versions of this story, makes the 100 minute run time fly through direction that is fun, light, and breezy. The entirety of the production takes place on Finley’s late father’s farm, and it is beautifully filmed with wide shots that sell the warmness of the story. Since this is all heightened comedy, the actors do an admirable job at playing off their individual characters. April Telek, Lillian Doucet-Rouche, and Richard Harmon, all play their parts, as the villains, quite well. Harmon, can a bit over the top, but he is just trying to fit into the mold that the film asks him to fit into. Michael Evans Behling gives Jackson Stone a warmth that makes the character more than just a typical heart throb. His scenes with Finley feel genuine and real. The two have a connection that makes the romantic angle in this film work.
The highlight here is Bailee Madison, who has established quite a career on television over the last decade. The girl can do it all: act, sing, and sell this material. One of the running puns is the name of her pet pig, who shares a name with an Emmy winning actor that brought Don Draper to life. If you know it, you will chuckle at the pure cheese of the joke and understand the overall humor here. Madison has a beautiful voice that we get to hear throughout the film’s select musical portions. This, added with her overall glow, solidifies that she is the ideal fit for this film’s version of the famous princess. The fact that she sings and converses to the animals, who don’t add anything back, helps too. Despite her alter ego, Huck, obviously being a girl, she adds a certain charm to that performance too. Her raspy voice, along with a clear phony mustache, are part of an overall comedically portrayal of a hidden identity. Again, Madison is up for the task to deliver something that isn’t too serious but should be fun for the whole family to watch.
A Cinderella Story: Starstruck is the perfect family film with a lead performance that shows an actress who is clearly on her way to bigger things. Yes, there are flaws, but it is all overshadowed by the good-natured tone of the picture. If you are a fan of Bailee Madison, you will enjoy seeing this girl do her thing.If you haven’t seen her before, she will now be on your radar.
I’m giving A Cinderella Story: Starstruck a 3.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!
Our own Kevin Muller received a free video to review, thanks to Warner Bros, of the new film A Cinderella Story: Starstruck.
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