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A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song (2011) Print E-mail
Monday, 29 August 2011
Image“A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song” is the third installment in the Cinderella saga by Warner Bros./Premiere in association with ABC Family.  Surprisingly this title is making its DVD debut before airing on cable television.

As you may have guessed, as the third film in the franchise, the plot is fairly redundant.  There is not much that is whole-heartedly original here versus the previous two films.  I have to watch what I say here.  Lucy, don’t hate me for saying this, but the premise falls flat with nothing to grab onto.  I love you, but it is true.

Our beloved Lucy Hale is the girl up this time around, portraying our Cinderella.  In the first film, Hilary Duff got the attic of a suburban L.A home.  In the second film, Selena Gomez got the guesthouse of a Beverly Hills mansion.  And now, Lucy gets the shed way on the outer edges of a rural mansion.

Not much time is spent on Katie’s (Hale) backstory, but we do know that her father married a gold-digger and then somehow died, leaving the wicked stepmother in charge.  Whereas the previous films had two evil stepsisters, this film has one more ditzy than evil stepsister, and a typical pain-in-the-butt stepbrother.  The entire film is inspired by a Bollywood theme, culminating in a homecoming, masquerade, Bollywood school dance.

Katie’s stepmother (Missi Pyle) is the head of a private performing school, at which both Katie and her stepsister Bev (Megan Park) attend.  Guy Morgan brings his son to the school to produce the school’s showcase.  It is unknown whether he is actually attending the school as a student.

Basically, Guy’s son, Luke (Freddie Stroma) has brief, clandestine meetings with Katie, but somehow finds something irresistible about Bev’s ditzy behavior.  Meanwhile, Katie trys the passive love technique that fails miserably.  Luke’s personal struggle is that he doesn’t want to be in music business like his father.  Instead he wants to be a producer on the creative side. Alright, so here is where I have trouble with all three of the Cinderella films – the masquerade dance.  Are we honestly supposed to believe that the guy is not able to tell who the girl is underneath the mask or veil?  Each one of the three actress have incredible eyes, best among them being Lucy.  There is no way that the guy would not be able to recognize those eyes again.  At very least it should be a no-brainer as to who isn’t the girl you are looking for.

Alas, Luke believes that Bev is the girl that appeared and sang to him the night of the dance.  Ummm, Katie and Bev have completely different color eyes, let along the fact there is no mistaking Lucy’s eyes for Megan’s.  Anyway, Luke starts to fall for Bev, all the while it is Katie that is feeding Bev the ditz information via earpieces, cell phones, etc.

The film culminates with the showcase performance in which Bev is supposed to lip-sync to Katie’s singing track.  Oh, did I forget to mention that Bev has no musical talent whatsoever and that Katie’s stepmother is forcing Katie to do the creative work or have her dad’s savings account wiped and her best friend expelled from school?  Well, as you can guess, the showcase doesn’t go according to plan.

Like many films, the story wraps up far to quickly.  Just when things are getting interesting the film goes to credits.  There are many unanswered questions that will become readily apparent when you watch the film.

The only saving grace to this film is Lucy Hale.  This is first time that the saga has had an actress that comes across as real and not simply a Hollywood actress.  Perhaps it is just Lucy’s persona, but she has a quality on screen that makes you believe that these things are actually happening.  Of course, when she is not in a scene, the film really drags.  On top of her essence, she is the first Warner/ABC actress that can actually sing.  However, most of you are not going to be able to tell that from this film.  Here’s why.  The song tracks are so over-produced it is incredible.  They have destroyed the beautiful qualities of Lucy’s voice.  She has grace and power in one and all you can her is vocal effect layered upon vocal effect.  There is almost nothing human about the singing voice anymore.  That is what upsets me the most.  The songs for this film are not the greatest, but they are true to bubblegum pop and will be loved by early teens.  I hope that Lucy gets a chance to shine with a solo album sometime in the future.

In terms of the technical release, the film is being released on DVD and Digital Download.  Early reports showed a Blu-ray release of the film, which seems to have been canceled in favor of the download.  Ughhh.

The DVD release is fairly standard.  When you come from watching only Blu-ray discs, of course the video quality of the standard DVD is going to be pathetic.  Getting back in the swing of DVD, the video quality is decent.  Close-up shots provide the best value, while panning establishing shots suffer from motion and compression artifacting.  Fleshtones are fairly natural, though the hue is a just a bit warm here and there.  The black levels are about as good as DVD gets, with shadow delineation remaining relatively good.  Colors are vibrant for DVD, though an HD release will surely showcase them much better.  We will just have to wait until the film airs on ABC Family HD.  The contrast levels are the weakest point of the DVD and explain why the colors don’t exactly pop.  One would expect the Bollywood dance segment to just leap off the screen.  Unfortunately, it remains a bit underwhelming.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 kbps.  The audio is bit uneven thanks to the Dolby compression algorithm.  After listening to lossless audio for so long, the lossy nature of this track truly shows.  Frequency Masking causes coloration in the music segments.  Other aspects of the algorithm leave some sounds jumpy, lacking a true spot in the soundfield.  The front and rear soundfields lack coherency.  The rear channels are hit or miss.  The opening dream/dance sequence is engaging, and then the rears fall flat for a long period of time.  The dynamics are better than I expected.  The LFE channel is absent for the most part, relying more on the main channel bass to provide the low frequencies.  A decent, but typical lossy audio track.

The DVD comes with more bonus materials than I expected.  There isn’t anything spectacular but it is nice to see the effort.  “Spotlighting Lucy Hale: Our New Cinderella” is a look as Lucy and how she makes the perfect Cinderella.  The best featurette on the disc by far.  “Meet Prince Charming” gives us a similar look at Freddie Stroma.  “A Cinderella Story: Make ‘em Move” is a little dance tutorial from Lucy Hale and Jessalyn Wanlim, who plays Katie’s best friend Angela.  “Flippin’ On Set” is a set tour.  Lastly, there is a video for Lucy Hales “Bless Myself.”

I’m sorry to say that “A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song” doesn’t offer much entertainment.  While make pre-teens will eat it up, most of the film’s premise is a bit far-fetched and too cut-and-past from the previous film to really go anywhere.  Lucy Hale is the shining star of this film and DVD release.  If you are fans of “Pretty Little Liars,” Lucy Hale, “Secret Life Of the American Teenager,” etc. then this is a recommended title for you.

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