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A Cinderella Story

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
A Cinderella Story Movie Poster Image
Funny and sweet update of the Cinderella tale.
  • PG
  • 2004
  • 95 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 53 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A good attitude, independence, and hard work bring great rewards; a strong character can survive unkindness, selfishness, and ignorance. The film repeatedly presents one message: "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." Support and friendship can be found in unexpected places.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sam has a wonderful relationship with her loving father. After his death, custody is granted to his widow Fiona, a typical "evil stepmother." Fiona's despicable behavior is magnified to the point of ridiculousness -- and is mostly very funny. But Sam must find mothering elsewhere; she gets approval, love, and support from an African-American restaurant manager and the waitresses on her staff. There are many teen stereotypes: mean girls, horny boys, and nerds who are teased mercilessly.


Violence & Scariness

An earthquake kills Sam's dad in an early scene. The death happens off-camera and except for some brief shaking in the little girl's bedroom, no major damage is seen. There is some cartoon action, mostly clumsy falls, slapstick fighting, and a car careens through city streets.

Sexy Stuff

Some comic sexual innuendo (much of which will go over the heads of the youngest kids). Breasts are an obsession of the teen boys, and a source of pride for the buxom Fiona. Some girls wear skimpy clothing, a few boys are seen only in towels, and Fiona whips quickly out of a tanning booth and into a towel (nudity is suggested rather than seen).



Fiona frequently uses insults and slurs to punish and demean her stepdaughter. Also heard: "fart," "butt," "breasts," "damn," "hell."


Coca Cola. In dialogue: Mercedes and Jaguar.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this story is set in motion when an earthquake kills the young heroine's father. The filmmakers keep it short, simple, and, off-camera except for some shaking in the little girl's bedroom. Though exaggerated, outlandish, and meant to be funny, Sam's evil stepmother and stepsisters are mean and insulting to her -- some very young or sensitive kids could be disturbed by their behavior. Cartoonish action includes lots of clumsy falls, a careening car, and some stepsister brawls. There's a bit of mild profanity ("hell," "damn," "fart," "butt"), some sexual innuendo, along with some low-cut stepmother and stepsister outfits, and a few big-breast and breast-implant jokes.   


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydvdgirl April 19, 2019


I often sometimes watch it and it’s cute a good movie for girls
Adult Written byChantal H. August 26, 2016

Cute modern-day Cinderella, formulaic in a satisfying way!

I watched with my almost 7-year-old who is quite mature but I had to explain a few things and I think some stuff would have gone over her head. It's one o... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byluv2bake556 January 27, 2019

Great but not for young kids

Okay, this is a fantastic movie but their are very inappropriate scenes. One older teacher is flirting with a high school student. One high school girl says sh... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bymickeywaffles November 8, 2018

Triggering for eating disorders

This movie is one of my favorites. I am recovering from anorexia, an i must say that it is triggering. Several girls mention not eating and having water. It is... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this Cinderella update, high school senior Sam (Hilary Duff) lives in the San Fernando Valley with her mean stepmother, Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge) and stepsisters. After Sam's adored father was killed in an earthquake, Fiona made her sleep in the attic and work in the family business, a diner. Sam dreams of going to Princeton but needs Fiona to pay for it, so she follows orders and takes verbal abuse. Sam gets support from diner manager Rhonda (Regina King) and best friend Carter (Dan Byrd). And she has an online relationship with a boy she meets in a chatroom for Princeton hopefuls, unaware that he's Austin Ames, student body president and star quarterback. He does not know she is "Diner Girl" Sam, so unworthy of notice that she is all but invisible except when the cool kids make fun of her. Sam's secret email pal invites her to meet him on the dance floor at 11, at the Halloween dance. And so begins a magical story about Sam's magical encounter with the prince of her dreams in which she leaves behind ... her cell phone.

Is it any good?

Girls will love this fresh, funny, and sweet, update of the Cinderella story, and it might win some fans among their older siblings and parents, as well. Duff has a winning personality and makes a lovely Cinderella, sensitive, smart, honorable, and devoted. She knows what she wants and is willing to sacrifice her present happiness to get it.

The always-welcome Regina King is a pleasure as the godmother-equivalent who provides more than a dress, and Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show) makes the most of a one-note character as the evil stepmother, especially when explaining that her serene expression is the result of Botox. Austin's efforts to find his Cinderella and Sam's struggles with Fiona go on longer than they should, but there is an old-fashioned happily-ever-after ending for everyone who deserves one, especially the girls in the audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what made it possible for Sam to hold on to her dreams and her self-respect despite Fiona's efforts to destroy them both.

  • What was it about Sam that made her stepmother and stepsisters feel so threatened?

  • How does this movie compare with the fairy-tale Cinderella story? Or with other princess movies?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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