A CINDERELLA STORY (PG, 97 minutes)

Let me get quickly to the word that best describes this movie. It is horrible. Time curls up and dies while this Hilary Duff vehicle wheels its weary, conventional way along. It should be considered as nothing more or less than time spent with cutesie-pootsie Duff, who plays Sam, a contemporary Cinderella dreaming about finding her prince. In this short-order cook version of the fairy tale, she finds herself disinherited from her dearly departed father's house, money and possessions thanks to her, you guessed it, wicked stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge, aka Stifler's mom in "American Pie") who has hidden the real will and taken all the loot for herself and two daughters from another marriage. She also makes Sam work in the family-owned diner. Turns out, that prince-to-be is the school's star quarterback, Austin (Chad Michael Murray), who's the envy of everyone but is consumed with shyness. Austin and Sam have already struck up a mystery-friend e-mail relationship, unaware of each other's true identity. In one of the movie's dumbest conceits, both create romantic heat at the masquerade prom party, apparently unable to see through each other's flimsy disguise. No wonder they're destined for each other. As for the glass slipper, in this movie it's a cell phone that Duff drops when she runs away from the prom. Like I said, for Duff fans only, who are probably getting psyched for her Patriot Center concert this Thursday. Contains mild obscenity and sexual innuendo. Area theaters.

-- Desson Thomson

Regina King, Mary Pat Gleason and Hilary Duff in "A Cinderella Story."