A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song
The first film in this series had heart. The second film had ease and charm. Pretty much all this third movie has going for it is glitz and glamour. It is hard to describe how much of a turnoff the film became. After I keep track of content for a later chart in my Tables of Content section, I do watch all the special features a DVD has, excluding the commentaries. Since this series is marketed for a tween crowd, the special features focus more on the actors and actresses. What I discovered this go-round while watching them is that I didn't care for one single character or performer. While watching the movie, I wasn't rooting for this version's Cinderella. I couldn't buy the writing and story or the people in the parts of Katie and her stepmother. A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song does have a few new ideas, but a majority of the time it feels content to steal from its predecessor, Another Cinderella Story. Except maybe it wasn't stealing, as the same director and writers have returned for the third installment, but instead duplicating one's work over again. This time it doesn't work. Though I can't exactly pinpoint it, this film felt like it had an ugly spirit, one that it tried to cover up in well-crafted but brief new pop tunes, catering, and well-adjusted characterizations that people will take for granted. I have always wondered about how Cinderella so quickly fell in love with Prince Charming, but this time there is a bigger problem in regards to Prince Charming himself. He is not in love with a person, he is in love with a voice. He only is attracted to the stepsister because he thinks she is the person who sang to him. There is no other chemistry I can ascertain. *Spoiler Alert: When he discovers the truth, he quickly falls for the real Cinderella.* The story of Cinderella originally has her falling in love with the Prince, not knowing who he really is. In this installment of the series, Cinderella knows who the Prince is. She loves him because he is attracted to her gifts of singing and lyric-writing. To become famous is her ticket to escape from life with her stepmother, and she feels it. This spreads around a message that is unhealthy; I don't care that the reason for this was because of the film's target audience. It disgusts me. On the positive side, there were two moments that caught me off guard in a good way in the film, though they are sadly not developed much further. One such moment is when Katie is looking through her younger brother's video cameras to her stepsister with the hotshot boy, she helping her sister along by writing the words to a new song impromptu. She is saying them through a miniature microphone while gazing on her Prince Charming, knowing that she is expressing her love for him, him not able to hear, her words only pushing him further away by making him fall in love instead with the person who pretends to have her heart. Though the film has given no real reason for anybody to be in love, you can most definitely feel the pain in that moment, and it is the most emotional moment I have yet to experience while watching a Cinderella film. This interesting concept is not explored any deeper. The other moment is when the stepsister compliments Katie and confesses that she is not happy with herself, that all she has going for herself is her looks. Her mother, though showing more love to her than to Katie, still states on more than one occasion that Katie is more talented than her, and hints that she is disappointed in her. This is the lone moment where I started to care about a character, but then she snaps at Katie, and the writers condemn her, leaving her with an ending where she is laughed off the stage. It feels like the part is more than one dimension, unlike this version of Cinderella. I wish they would have added some kind of reconciliation into the tale between her and Katie, or at least some hope for the former. But I don't think the writers actually cared enough about their characters, easily taking advantage of the stereotypes of the tale, though they have not been expressed in a way that feels sincere, leaving us to want to care for more characters beside the titular Cinderella, but the film acting as if we shouldn't want to. Rating: 2 1/4 /5
This second review will be much shorter and less comprehensive. The first half of the movie is crap. There. I said it. This is the first time where I have actually considered stopping a film and giving it an automatic grade. In this case, a first-ever 0/5. But my conscience told me that that I would kind of be lying, making people believe I watched the whole film, and also knowing that I didn't give the whole movie a fair chance. So I went on, and at about the 50-minute mark it got a little better. Not much, but a little. It went from "crap" to plain "bad". I am not going to go into why this movie was bad, as it is so apparent from scene to scene. Almost everything about the movie is garbage. I was shocked to discover later on that it had a moderate budget. That budget was very poorly used, and it feels like the writers had a mental breakdown. The conception must have had a brief moment of insight, as eventually there is a narrow point somewhere in the distance you can see where there might have been at least a good bad movie made, but the full conception is bad, as is the execution. The movie is flat-out a comedy, but it is not a funny comedy at all. To me, it was excruciatingly awful. The only time I have ever felt this way was toward Leprechaun 2, but this time it was even more intense, as it didn't even feel like the writers even tried. The first half is so painful that time slows down, and at the top of every minute, when it finally arrives, you feel a boom like from a cannon. Even by the series' standards, this is a doozy. The slightly better, though most certainly not "good" or even "average", second half boosted the 0/5 beginning to a final grade of 1 1/2 /5. If you are not prepared to enjoy its awfulness and someone approaches wanting to watch it with you, run away. I do not say this to be humorous or as a way of expressing myself in grand fashion. I absolutely feel that the best advice I can give you is that: run...away. Fast.