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A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the third take on a familiar tale, A Cinderella Story. Like the first two movies, this one follows a talented-but-put-upon Cinderella stand-in who lives under the tyrannical rule of a mean stepmother. The teen romance is mild and only includes two sweet kisses, but the protagonist endures quite a lot of emotional -- and verbal -- abuse from her humorous-but-cruel parental figure. The stepmother character, however, gets hers in the end, and at the very least, this Cinderella has unexpected allies who help her triumph.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Katie Gibbs (Lucy Hale) is a gifted singer-songwriter, but before she can head off to music school for college, she must endure one final year under the emotionally abusive supervision of her "evil stepmother" Gail (Missi Pyle) and bratty stepsiblings. Gail, who's the headmistress of Katie's private school, has landed a star transfer pupil, Luke (Freddie Stroma), the handsome son of a billionaire music producer. A condition of his attendance is that Luke produce the school's annual talent show. When fame-hungry Gail realizes that Katie is much more talented than her own daughter, she forces Katie to sing songs that stepsister Bev (Megan Park) will lip-sync during the big show. Katie agrees, but watching Bev and Luke get cozy over her own songs nearly breaks her heart.
Is it any good?
This third installment in Warner Bros.' popular Cinderella Story franchise is as sugary sweet and entertaining as the others -- which is to say, fluffy and cute, not deep and enduring. Tween girls will delight in Hale (star of Pretty Little Liars) and Stroma's (who memorably played the cocky Cormac McLaggen in Harry Potter) attraction at first listen, and parents will approve of how their relationship develops in an almost Cyrano de Bergerac fashion -- a meeting of like-minded artists, not teens in hormonal overdrive.
Unlike other Cinderella adaptations, Katie's stepsiblings aren't always cruel, but the stepmother is completely cold-hearted. Pyle is definitely the movie's top scene-stealer, with her pinched smile and narrowed eyes. She's the kind of character actress who deserves a starring comedy or sitcom role but instead has to settle for these supporting gigs. Pyle's love-to-hate-her performance, combined with Hale and Stroma's adorable leads, makes this a perfect sleepover pick for girls who haven't graduated to PG-13 romances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how family relationships are portrayed in this story. Does Katie have a healthy home environment? How does her stepmother treat her? Are kids sometimes treated this way in real life?
If you've seen the previous movies, how does this new installment compare to the other Cinderella Story films?
How does Katie's family differ from the original Cinderella tale? Why do you think the stepsiblings are portrayed in a slightly more sympathetic manner?
- On DVD or streaming: September 6, 2011
- Cast: Lucy Hale, Megan Park, Missi Pyle
- Director: Damon Santostefano
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and some crude and suggestive content
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.