An “ugly” stepsister, a portrait painter upset that he painted a masterpiece and a failed investment in tulips. These and other convoluted plot points form the crux of ABC”s rehash of the Cinderella tale, “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.”
In the 17th century, “Ugly” Iris (Aruza Skye, “Bandits”), quiet Ruth (Emma Poole) and their scheming mother, Margarethe (Stockard Channing, “The West Wing”) used to be rich. Then they were driven away from their home. This leads them to Holland, at the center of its commercial importance.
A quirky painter called The Master (Jonathan Pryce, far too respectable to be in a show like this) takes in the family. Iris sits for one of the Master”s portraits this leads to an opportunity to paint the beautiful yet agoraphobic Clara.
Iris, of course, must find a way to bring the moody Clara (Jenna Harrison) out of her shell. Meanwhile, she must also discover her own inner talent. This is all woven in with the Cinderella theme, so you can probably guess what happens (hint: It involves a rat that turns into slippers, a fairy fortune teller, and a prince).
The story is certainly charming enough. ABC made sure of that. Some of the dialogue is even funny at times (sample: “It”s worse to spy on someone who”s spying on someone”s door”). But the plot holes deprive the viewer of what should be a charming, if not technically original, story.
Ruth is amusing, but has hardly any place in the story save comic relief. The Master develops depression after realizing he can never surpass the quality of his portrait of Clara. The romance between Iris and the painter”s apprentice is under-developed. But the biggest glaring error is that Iris is not ugly! Skye may not be the world”s most beautiful actress, but she holds her own with Harrison, and has a far better part (if not as good a British accent). As for the tulips, this actually occurred in the 17th century, but seems odd for a Cinderella story.
Channing is well cast as Margarethe, who schemes and uses potions in the name of keeping her family fed and rich. Ruth may be the finest character, although again her role is squelched.
Although beautiful filmed in Luxembourg, and well cast, “The Wonderful World of Disney” made a mistake in commissioning this tale. After half an hour, it develops into a train wreck disastrous, fun to watch yet eventually something you wish you didn”t spend so much time on.