Things In A Cinderella Story That Only Adults Notice

When A Cinderella Story was released in 2004, it received negative reviews from critics. Noted film critic Roger Ebert only gave it one star, while Variety criticized its "limp storytelling and dud stabs at comedy." That didn't stop the charming teen flick from gaining a massive following, however, and it is now widely beloved as a teen movie classic. The Cinderella retelling has been casting a spell on audiences for quite a few years now, and its original target demographic is all grown up.  

Now that the kids who first fell in love with A Cinderella Story in 2004 are adults, how does this movie hold up? Will they still find it as magical and heartwarming as they did when it first came out? Or will they agree with the film's critics and its abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score of 12 percent? There's only one way to find out. Here's a look at some of the stuff you'll only notice in A Cinderella Story if you watch it as an adult.

Couldn't Sam's dad tell that his new wife wasn't the nicest person in A Cinderella Story?

We can forgive Sam's dad for falling head over heels for Fiona in A Cinderella Story. He was just a single dad looking for love. But didn't he have some idea that she was awful? Fiona isn't exactly subtle, and she doesn't seem like she's shrewd enough to have concealed her cruelty from him throughout their courtship and marriage. There's a pretty big hint at her manipulative ways at their wedding, when Sam, who's played by Lizzie McGuire's Hilary Duff, gets cut out of the family wedding photo and Fiona is happy about it. Surely there were other clues throughout their relationship that showed Fiona has an unkind heart. How did Sam's dad remain so clueless?

Getting into a relationship with a narcissist is bad enough, but, when there are kids involved, the consequences can be downright tragic, as viewers of A Cinderella Story see when Sam's dad dies and Sam is stuck under the care of her wicked stepmom. It's a shame that Sam's dad wasn't able to figure out that he'd married an awful person before his untimely death.

Sam and her dad don't practice proper earthquake safety in A Cinderella Story

Towards the beginning of A Cinderella Story, Sam's dad tragically dies in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. According to The Atlantic, the earthquake killed more than 60 people and injured more than 9,000. While we don't see how exactly Sam's dad dies, as it happens off screen when he responds to a call for help from Fiona, he probably would have been safe if he had stayed with Sam. Actually, neither one of them should have budged in the first place. Sam and her dad were tucked into her bed for a bedtime story, and, according to CNN, that's where they should have stayed.

The outlet's earthquake safety tips say that if you're in bed when an earthquake hits, you should stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow for extra protection. By bringing Sam out into the hallway, Sam's dad put both of them in danger. All of the tragedy in A Cinderella Story could have been avoided if Sam's dad had simply followed proper earthquake safety protocol.

Why does Austin in A Cinderella Story have such awful friends?

Austin Ames, who is played by One Tree Hill's Chad Michael Murray, may be a nice enough guy, but his friends in A Cinderella Story are kind of the worst. They're your stereotypical teen movie jocks and are not exactly the nicest of people. They're rude to Sam, clearly think they're better than everyone else, and one of them even makes a move on Shelby right after she and Austin break up. Not only is this a jerk move, but that boy is clearly the type of guy who doesn't understand that no means no — not the kind of person you'd expect the hero of the movie to be such good pals with.

While we could chalk up Austin's terrible friend choices to youthful indiscretion, his horrible clique could also be an indicator that this Prince Charming isn't all he's cracked up to be. Whatever happened to chivalry? The so-called hero of A Cinderella Story could certainly use some knights in shining armor as BFFs. 

Austin is kind of a player in A Cinderella Story

The secret correspondence between Sam and Austin in A Cinderella Story seems romantic until you realize that he's had a girlfriend the entire time they've been writing to each other. Suddenly, their anonymous cyber wooing goes from a meet-cute to a full-blown emotional affair. Shelby might not be the best girlfriend, but that doesn't mean she deserves a guy sneaking around behind her back. 

Frankly, this calls Austin's ethics into question. It would have been bad enough if he had been stringing Shelby along until he was able to meet with Sam in person, but he isn't even sure he's going to break up with her when he makes plans to meet Sam at the dance. He only breaks up with Shelby hours before meeting Sam in person, and even then the breakup isn't premeditated. He only breaks up with her after finally getting tired of her mean remarks. Yikes.

Fiona is violating child labor laws in A Cinderella Story

In order to protect children from harsh working conditions and to ensure they have enough time to go to school and do their homework, California (where A Cinderella Story is set) has some pretty strict child labor laws. Not only is Fiona being a terrible parent by making Sam work long hours in A Cinderella Story, but she's also breaking the law. There's no way that it is legal for Sam to be working past midnight on a school night or to hold down what looks to be a full-time job while trying to finish high school.

While Sam's age isn't actually revealed in A Cinderella Story, considering that people usually graduate from high school around 17 or 18 and Sam said she was graduating a year early, it's safe to say that Sam is, indeed, underage and therefore unable to legally work so many hours. It's bad enough that she loses quality study time because of being forced to work, but it's even worse that all of that labor isn't even legal.

Doesn't Sam have any relatives checking up on her in A Cinderella Story?

The way Sam is treated by her stepfamily in A Cinderella Story is awful. Doesn't she have any biological relatives she could have stayed with after her dad died? At the very least, you would expect that she would have a grandparent or an aunt or uncle checking up on her once in a while to see how she is doing with her stepmother as her only parental figure. Even assuming that everyone in Sam's extended family is dead, you'd think there'd be a godparent or a family friend in the picture coming around every so often to see if she needs anything.

Sure, you could argue that the employees at the diner are keeping an eye on the situation, but, with the exception of Rhonda, it doesn't seem like any of them have helped her cope with what looks like an incredibly toxic and abusive situation. Why didn't one of them call child protective services at some point in her childhood?

Hasn't Sam in A Cinderella Story ever heard of scholarships?

Sam knows that the way Fiona treats her in A Cinderella Story her isn't okay, but she has a seemingly sound reason for putting up with years of abuse: college money. She views Fiona as the only way she will be able to afford college, so she does whatever Fiona tells her to do. Hasn't she ever heard of scholarships? Sam is clearly pretty bright and would qualify for several that could help her pay for college. She could also apply for financial aid or, in the worst case scenario, do what countless other students do: take out student loans.

Sure, dealing with crushing student debt doesn't exactly make for a happily-ever-after ending, but dealing with Sallie Mae would be preferable to dealing with Fiona and her abusive and manipulative tactics. Sam could also get a job to help pay for some of her college costs — something she already has plenty of practice at, thanks to all the time she spent working for Fiona. 

Sam's academic dishonesty in A Cinderella Story could get her into serious trouble

Sam justifies putting up with Fiona's abuse because she thinks it will help her pay her way through college, but why does she obey the demands of her stepsisters in A Cinderella Story? Brianna has Sam do her homework for her, and Sam does it in spite of the fact that this not only takes up a lot of her limited spare time but also no doubt violates school rules regarding cheating. 

It's understandable that Sam feels like she has no choice in the matter, but this sort of academic dishonesty is pretty unethical. She might be able to get away with this sort of thing in high school, but let's hope she doesn't try to write someone else's essays when she gets to college. That's something that could get her booted out of Princeton altogether.

Why didn't Austin recognize Sam's voice in A Cinderella Story?

Austin spends a good part of A Cinderella Story desperately trying to unveil Cinderella's true identity. Yet when he's talking to a girl who is the same height and build, has the same hair color, and has the same voice as the girl he supposedly fell for at the dance, he doesn't even suspect that it might be her. Sure, Sam was wearing a mask at the dance, but that thing barely covered her eyes. It didn't exactly render her completely unrecognizable. How does Austin have absolutely no inkling that the girl standing before him is the woman of his dreams?

An even bigger clue that Sam is Cinderella is that, unlike pretty much all the other girls at the school, she never comes forward claiming to be the girl he was looking for. How on earth is Austin this clueless? And how did he get into Princeton with the reasoning skills of a shrimp?

Why is Austin's dad in A Cinderella Story so against him going to Princeton?

One of the most implausible plot lines in A Cinderella Story is Austin's dad's insistence that his son attend USC. While we can understand why he would want his son to follow in his footsteps and attend his alma mater, it seems pretty strange that he would be so set on his son attending that school and playing college football. First of all, a lot of college athletes get hurt and most don't end up turning pro, so it's a good thing that Austin has a backup plan in mind. Second of all, Princeton is a pretty good school, to say the least. At most, Austin's dad should only be mildly disappointed that he doesn't want to go to USC.

Most parents would be thrilled if their kid got into an Ivy League school like Princeton, which, according to US News, is the top school in the country. Fortunately, Austin's dad finally comes around — probably after he looked up college rankings and realized just how big of an accomplishment getting into Princeton actually is.

Austin in A Cinderella Story is a pretty bad Prince Charming

We could maybe forgive Austin for being a player with horrible friends in A Cinderella Story because, hey, he is just a teenager after all. But the fact that he doesn't stick up for Sam after his ex-girlfriend and her minions publicly humiliate her in front of the entire student body transforms him from a Prince Charming into a frog. Yeah, we get that he's a young man who is caving in to peer pressure, but the whole point of the Prince Charming trope is that he is supposed to overcome all of that. All we are seeing here is a weak kid who can't stand up to anyone, whether it's for himself or for someone he supposedly cares about.

That big romantic gesture at the end of A Cinderella Story might make it seem like Austin has finally grown up... but has he? We aren't so convinced that a guy who has spent most of the movie kowtowing to everyone around him can change his personality so quickly.

Sam's dad was incredibly irresponsible in A Cinderella Story

Towards the end of A Cinderella Story, Sam discovers that Fiona lied to her for years. Surprise, the diner is actually Sam's! And so is the house! And basically everything her father had owned! How did Sam learn of this stunning twist of fate? By her dad's secret will falling out of a book. Um, what? Who picks a book as a hiding spot? And why was the will hidden in the first place? Shouldn't it have been filed with an attorney who would make sure that the will was properly executed? 

Who stashes away an incredibly important document in a book of all places? What if Sam had lost the book or had given it away? Not only was hiding the will in the book completely irresponsible, but it was also a pretty bad parenting move. If only Sam's dad had acted like a responsible parent and adult, Sam would have never been subjected to her stepmother's orders for so many years.

How was Sam just able to move out in A Cinderella Story?

By the end of A Cinderella Story, Sam has finally had enough of Fiona and her domineering ways. At this point, she thinks her dream of going to Princeton is over, so she cuts ties with her stepfamily and moves in with Rhonda. While we've got to admire Sam's chutzpah, we've also got to wonder how she was able to just move out. Even though it's painfully clear that Fiona never really cared about her, she is still Sam's legal guardian. Since Sam is a minor, she wouldn't be able to move in with just anybody unless she was legally emancipated from Fiona.

Now, it seems pretty unlikely that Fiona would report Sam moving out to the authorities, but crashing on Rhonda's sofa isn't exactly a long-term housing solution. What exactly is Sam's plan here? Is she just counting on Fiona to not care enough to report her as a runaway? 

There is no way Sam and Austin work out after the end of A Cinderella Story

Sam says it herself at the end of A Cinderella Story as she and Austin head off to Princeton — she's only a freshman. They may have ended up together at the end of the movie, but there is no way they live happily ever after. It's only a matter of time before Sam's newfound assertiveness kicks in and clues her in to the fact that she is a total catch and Austin is... well, not.

It's completely possible that Austin is well on his way into maturing into a caring and confident individual, but that doesn't mean Sam has to waste her college years babysitting him. If she's smart, she'll break up with him after freshman orientation, let him grow up a little, and then maybe get back together with him after a couple of years if he turns into an actual Prince Charming worthy of a woman like Sam. If he remains as immature as he seemed for most of A Cinderella Story, though, he is definitely not good enough for her, and Sam should move on from her high school sweetheart.