Produced by Shelley Duvall for the Showtime network in 1984, this Cinderella still features a pretty and put-upon maid, her mean and ugly step-mother and step-sisters, and a fairy godmother and prince who come to her rescue. The similarity to other versions, however, ends there.

The novelty of Duvall’s Cinderella is evident at the outset when her bossy step-mom (the late Eve Arden) explains to Cindy (Jennifer Beals) why she must do all the chores: ”You’ve been blessed with incredible beauty, a sweet disposition, and a loving heart. These are qualities that are totally absent from myself and my daughters. Therefore, in order to balance the scales of nature, which have been unfairly tipped in your favor, it is only right that we should treat you like dirt.”

Beals is pretty enough, but it’s the stepsisters (Jane Alden and Edie McClurg) who steal most of the scenes with their delightful boorishness. If being unattractive is this much fun, who wants to be pretty? There’s not a whiff of Tinkerbell in Jean Stapleton’s Fairy Godmother either — she’s practical, sarcastic, and earthy. But Matthew Broderick, as Prince Henry, is nothing more than genteel and nerdy. As my 7-year-old cousin said, ”He looks like a Henry.”

With its humor and its energetic pace, this Cinderella could never be called enchanting. It’s too busy poking fun at the conventions of fairy tales. By the end, you don’t care what Cinderella’s dress looks like, or if she ever kisses her prince or if they live happily ever after. You just want to sit back and hear her wicked relatives go through their routines again. B+

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