July 26, 2004 12:00 PM

Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge, Chad Michael Murray, Regina King

Much of the teen heroine’s attention in this insipid girl-power tale is focused on gaining admission to Princeton University. Not because F. Scott Fitzgerald went there, or even Brooke Shields, but because the school is clear across the country from L.A., where Samantha Montgomery (Duff) lives with—and is mercilessly picked on by—her airhead stepmother (Coolidge, a comic firecracker). This stepmom is a woman given to such exit lines as, “I’m off to get some more lipo.”

A contemporary take on the old fairy tale, A Cinderella Story shows how orphan Samantha triumphs over her tyrannical stepmother, wins the cute boy (Murray) of her dreams (not a prince but another aspiring Princeton student) and does it all without ever being mean or letting her grade point average sink below an A. Designed to showcase the spunky Duff and let her wear as many outfits as possible, Story ranks in the current teen girl film pantheon midway between the nadir of the Olsen twins’ New York Minute and the riotous Mean Girls. (PG)

COMEDY

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