When I watched the trailer for Cinderella, I was excited. It looked like the story was going to be a slightly different twist on a very old story. The story has had many variations and it is difficult to come up with a new spin. The cast looked excellent and I looked forward to seeing the film. However, despite wonderful musical numbers and a truly diverse, inspiring cast, the story isn’t as original as I hoped and the twist in the story is as subtle as throwing a brick.
Cinderella is a new romantic musical adaptation written and directed by Kay Cannon, starring singer Camila Cabello as Cinderella. In this version, Cinderella wants nothing to do with the prince but instead wants a career designing dresses. Her stepmother, Vivian (Idina Menzel) has other ideas and doesn’t believe a woman can have a career. She demands Cinderella give up her dreams and get married. In the meantime, Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is looking for love rather than to marry for power but his father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan), demands he holds a ball to pick a bride. His mother, Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver), isn’t happy but the king won’t allow her a voice in any of the decisions or consider his daughter, Gwen (Tallulah Greive), might be the better choice to rule, given her savvy insight into politics. With the help of a Fairy Godmother, the Fab G (Billy Porter), and her mice friends (James Acaster, James Corden, and Romesh Ranganathan), Cinderella might have a chance to achieve her dream but will she give up love to do so?
One of the best elements of the film is the cast. This is a wonderful cast, an ensemble of great performers who are able to act equally as well as they sing and dance. Camila Cabello has a beautiful singing voice and has a strong dynamic when performing with the great Idina Menzel. And while the dialogue can be heavy-handed with the feminist messaging, Tallulah Greive and Minnie Driver are as witty in their delivery of those lines. Billy Porter is absolutely fabulous and all three mice are charming and funny. The cast is diverse which is wonderful to see and one of the funniest performances is the rapping given by the town crier, Doc Brown. I adored Billy Porter as Fab G but there was far too little of him in the movie.
While the story is set in what seems to be the standard fairytale faux medieval, the musical numbers are modern and full of energy. The performances pop and the dance numbers are fun. While few of the songs are original, the cast does a fantastic job of infusing them with heart and soul. These numbers are upbeat, highlight the story and are the best part of the movie. In the original songs, they are well written and beautifully performed.
But while diversity of the cast, the admirable acting and charming wit help draw you in, the story and message are heavy handed with characters that are ultimately never fully explored. While Cinderella’s ambition for a career is admirable and one of the aspects I liked best, we never really learned more about her than that. Prince Robert wants to fall in love but again, beyond that, we don’t learn more. At one point in the film, they state they’ve only just met and that is the most honest part of the movie as it does point to the undeniable truth of the original story, wherein Cinderella is a moral lesson on how girls should be good and marry well. While this new spin twists that upside down and attempts to teach the lesson to follow your dreams, the message lacks any attempt at subtlety.
That to me is the biggest failing. The feminist message is infused in every aspect of the film to the point where the story is just one long lesson. Queen Beatrice wants a voice so by the end she has a voice. Princess Gwen wants to share her ideas and eventually has a platform to do so. Cinderella wants a career and is given the opportunity to do so. Everything in the story follows the messaging and so every part of the story is predictable and falls flat. And while I love women getting the opportunity to be more than a traditional role, even in this attempt, this is not new, if you’ve ever seen Drew Barrymore in Ever After. This film feels like it wants to be the new cool version of Ever After but fails to have the depth to pull it off.
If you like fun musicals, and love excellent singing performances, then I sincerely say check this film out. It is a lot of fun if you don’t object to the heavy message and for young girls, they will appreciate the storyline that encourages them to follow their dreams, whether that is love or a career. I do especially think families may like this just for that aspect. But if you are looking for an original story, I suggest going back to the best, Ever After or The Princess Bride. Each of these gives much more proactive characters with far greater depth and a far more subtle feminist message. Cinderella has decent aspects to it but the predictable story and lack of fully developed characters weakens it considerably.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 mice
CINDERELLA is a musically-driven bold new take on the traditional story you grew up with. Our heroine (Camilla Cabello) is an ambitious young woman whose dreams are bigger than the world will allow, but with the help of her Fab G (Billy Porter), she is able to persevere and make her dreams come true. Written for the screen and directed by Kay Cannon (PITCH PERFECT, BLOCKERS) with covers of songs written by some of the top-selling musical artists of all time, CINDERELLA has an all- star cast that includes Idina Menzel (RENT, FROZEN), Minnie Driver (GOOD WILL HUNTING, THE RICHES), Nicholas Galitzine (THE BEAT BENEATH MY FEET, CHAMBERS) with Billy Porter (POSE, LIKE A BOSS) and Pierce Brosnan (MAMMA MIA!, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA). CINDERELLA premieres exclusively on Amazon Prime on September 3, 2021.
ONE-LINER: A modern movie musical with a bold take on the classic fairy tale where an ambitious heroine has big dreams and with the help of her fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.