Movie Review: Cinderella

  • Director: Kay Cannon
  • Cast: Camila Cabello, Idina Menzel, Nicholas Galitzine, Minnie Driver, Pierce
  • Brosnan, Billy Porter, James Corden, James Acaster, Romesh Ragannathan
  • Genre: Fantasy musical
  • Country/Language: USA,UK / English
  • Duration: 1 hr 53 min
  • Release date: September 3, 2021

The story of Cinderella has been reproduced onto the screen again and again. The hype around the fairytale just doesn’t seem to die. Since Walt Disney released the animated ‘Cinderella’ in 1950, we have had 1997’s ‘Cinderella’ (with Brandy), ‘Ever After’ (with Drew Barrymore), ‘Ella Enchanted’ (Anne Hathaway), ‘A Cinderella Story’ (Hillary Duff), ‘Another Cinderella Story’ (Selena Gomez) and 2015’s ‘Cinderella’ with Lily James, plus many more.

And now, Amazon Prime has hopped onto the bandwagon with ‘Cinderella’ number umpteenth. Playing the lead is Camila Cabello, the singer famous for her hits “Havana” and “Señorita”, and a former member of Fifth Harmony. The director and screenwriter is Kay Cannon (of the comedy ‘Blockers’).

‘Cinderella’ puts a Gen Z-friendly spin on the classic tale by including re-recorded versions of pop songs, TikTok-style dances, a self-mockingly aware humour, and an anachronistic setting à la ‘A Knight’s Tale’ (2001) and ‘Ella Enchanted’ (2004).

The songs included in the movie are classics such as Madonna’s “Material Girl” and Queen’s “Somebody To Love”, and modern chart hits like Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”. Barring The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, all the cover songs sung by the cast are at best, sleep-inducing and at worst, annoyingly corny. The dance choreography is also unmemorable but might be fun for some TikTok users.

On a bright note, the stepmother and stepsisters (played by Idina Menzel, Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer), who are often handed two-dimensional treatments in ‘Cinderella’ adaptations, are treated with more nuance in Kay Cannon’s version. The step-sisters are mean but not malicious. Their motives to marry are not evil but misunderstood and a result of a patriarchal society.

Sure, the stepmother Vivian makes Cinderella labour away at the house like every other version, but in the hands of Idina Menzel (‘Frozen’), Vivian is simply an overwhelmed and misguided widow. Menzel is probably the best thing about this messy project. When she sings passionately and then crumbles onto her piano (which she hasn’t touched in years), she woefully begins to play it. Her fingers work themselves marvellously, but as the music piece progresses, the former pianist gets increasingly frustrated until she abruptly stops and weeps. Menzel almost single-handedly makes this annoying musical watchable simply for this scene alone. It’s a rare moment of sorrow and depth in an otherwise superficial film.

Nicholas Galitzine portrays the handsome Prince Robert as a himbo. Naïve and not-so-bright, the royal is also kind-hearted and Galitzine sings well.

The CGI mice, who are Cinderella’s friends from her basement, are adorable and funny. British comedians James Acaster, Romesh Ragannathan and James Corden (also producer) dish out some funny jokes as the mice, but are ultimately underused. Their best scene amounts to nothing more than them waiting for Cinderella outside the palace, which lasts for just a few minutes. It’s a shame because Acaster and Ragannathan are seasoned comedians who have a history of making their audiences hysterical with laughter.

There has been some outpouring of contempt on social media regarding the unethical practices of Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, and how ironic it is that ‘Cinderella’ delivers its message of “girlboss entrepreneurship” with such positivity. Additionally, we see the characters in the village work happily to the song “Rhythm Nation” when in reality, Amazon’s employees have reportedly suffered from overwork and ill health for a pitiful minimum wage. Hence, to enjoy this movie, one will have to abandon their moral judgement.

Also, let’s be real. Cinderella prioritizing her dreams to be a “girlboss” dressmaker over marrying the prince and finding love isn’t necessarily a “capitalist” agenda. No matter how superficial the execution may look, it still rings of truth. Truth is that women are increasingly becoming independent while also facing the pressure to comprise for other relationships. So a woman needs a reminder from time to time that she needs to focus on being financially independent so as to not rely on others, and prioritize herself over a partner. ‘Cinderella’ speaks facts in that department.

To conclude, ‘Cinderella’ is a sloggy mess of a movie which will only appeal to toddlers since it is visually ravishing with wonderful costume pieces. There are some interesting ideas here and there, but they are muddled in what is essentially a vehicle for a popstar and another formulaic addition to a growing streaming platform.

‘Cinderella’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime.

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