There aren’t many straight-to-video sequels that manage to surpass their predecessors, but I think we can safely add Another Cinderella Story (2008) to that shortlist, thanks to a shameless, scene-stealing turn by Jane Lynch as the movie’s modern-day “wicked step-mother”, and the inspired casting of cult horror duo Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle as her bratty, bickering daughters. It was especially pleasing to see Perkins bring her off-kilter intensity to the otherwise rather generic “ugly step-sister” role… and, at the risk of being ungentlemanly, the shots of her wearing figure-hugging dance-wear were a welcome bonus too! Meanwhile, Selena Gomez was very winning as the movie’s plucky, put-upon heroine… alongside the equally adorable Jessica Parker Kennedy, as her bestie/”fairy godmother”. Towards the end of the movie I actually started to feel sorry for Nicole LaPlaca, who was cast as Gomez’s supposed love-rival, because her character just came off as an underwritten after-thought, constantly over-shadowed by her own “sidekicks” (Perkins & Isabelle), and her super-cute nemesis. Poor thing.
Of course, this movie has the same forehead-slapping plot-hole at its centre as the first entry, with a fully-sighted and sober “Prince Charming” (Drew Seeley) incapable of recognising the girl he slow-danced with at a masquerade ball, after she removes her barely-there mask and returns to a life of domestic drudgery*… but let’s not go down that ranty road again. Thankfully he managed to discover the true identity of his “mystery” crush about halfway through the running time, so they could get some proper bonding done before the obligatory (and rather underwhelming) spanner was thrown in the works of their budding romance. One of the more gratifying elements of this story is that when the pop-star Prince makes his grand gesture to win Cinderella’s heart back in the finale, he’s also helping her to (unknowingly) audition for a fancy Performing Arts Academy, so that she can pursue her own thwarted ambitions and escape her adoptive enslavement! Hurrah!
I was surprised to discover (via a behind-the-scenes featurette) that Gomez hadn’t had any formal dance training before she was hired to play this part, because the duets between her and Seeley are fantastic… especially the early rehearsal scene where they’re moving in soul-mate-synch, separated by a one-way mirror. Of course, the mirror wasn’t always there while they were actually filming the sequence… but it’s still pretty impressive. I also have to give a shout-out to Nicole Muñoz, who plays the younger version of Gomez’s character in an embarrassing bedroom-dancing video clip that’s repeated several times throughout the movie. Not the most glamorous of cameos… but she rocks it, all the same. Bless.
* Hilariously, the “Glass Slipper” in this version is a Zune MP3 player, and everyone keeps referring to it by name… little realising that the brand would be totally defunct a couple years later, leaving countless future generations to turn to their parents and ask: “Mommy, Daddy… what’s a Zune?” At which point their parents will shrug, and look it up on Wikipedia… just like I had to!