Cinderella is undoubtedly one of the most vanilla fairy tales in the Disney realm, unless, of course, you’ve delved into the bloodier version by the Brothers Grimm. Nevertheless, filmmakers can’t seem to resist the allure of these timeless tales, putting their own unique spin on them. The 2021 adaptation of ‘Cinderella,’ a musical directed and written by Kay Cannon, doesn’t provide much in the way of entirely ‘new’ material, aside from giving the heroine a clear purpose and a rather ‘fabulous’ Godmother.
The film is an awkward combination of fluff, fake sets and a grand castle. The story starts off in a fictional place that’s simply referred to as ‘an old-fashioned’ kingdom. The townsfolk dance to a fun rendition of Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ and the kingdom looks like an elaborate set from High School Musical. Seriously, it feels like a bunch of senior college students taking part in a musical. Cinderalla’s step-mother Vivian (Idina Menzel) and sisters are also introduced as they sing and dance to this communal anthem of being a part of a ‘rhythm nation’.
The narrator introduces our heroine by noting how her face is often besmirched by cinders, thus her name Cinderalla (Camila Cabello), however, ironically, Camilla looks perfect, caked with minimal make-up. No cinders whatsoever. By this time, one begins to wonder about the odd costume designs, except for Cinderella who wears a maid’s dress, everybody else is just in random colorful clothes. When Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is finally introduced, the script pretty much makes him out to be a rich brat who loves nothing more than drinking and hunting his days away. They quickly try to redeem that image a little later and make him seem like some sort of tragic hero who is least interested in royal life, bullied by the king into behaving a certain way. Why so confused guys?
The first 20-30 minutes of the film has very little charm and is quite insufferable. Things only start to get better when the Prince meets Cinderella for the first time, although he is disguised as a commoner. Camila Cabello and Nicholas Galitzine are adorable in their first interaction, but just as the film gets its first sweet moment, the scene is interrupted by an ANNOYING song routine, to announce the grand ball, where the prince will choose his bride.
It’s nice that the makers try to elevate Cinderella from the ‘poor damsel in distress’, and make her ambitious, someone who loves to designs clothes and would rather be a dressmaker than someone’s wife. But they barely push the envelope. And if you are not going to be too serious about the theme, then why not go a little more crazy and give the audience some over the top fun-fantastical stuff? For example, every time the characters break into a song and dance routine, they could’ve just changed the sets into more fun settings, instead of keeping the routine limited to one background. And Cinderella’s magic dress for the ball was extremely underwhelming.
The whole ‘fabulous godmother’ twist was nice, Billy Porter plays this gender-fluid fairy (pun wasn’t intended) in a gorgeous orange-gold dress, and when he breaks into a song in Cinderella’s backyard, the makers could’ve easily given the scene some more grand elements, except for some boring fairy dust spewing out of his wand. Boring. Boring. Boring. Cinderella might be more ambitious in the film, but the makers – not so much. It would be interesting to see Camila Cabello and Nicholas Galitzine cast in a present-day romance, because they make a great-onscreen couple. But given the muddled script in this fairy-tale, their chemistry gets lost in the bland chaos.
For most parts, this 2021 film feels like a parody of the fairy tale genre, but lacks imagination and is barely funny. The CGI mice who play Cinderella’s friends were cute though and will manage to crack up the viewers a little. Director Kay Cannon comes across as trying too hard to be cool, going as far as making even Cinderella say “cool” in one scene. There is also the sneaky suspicion that creeps into your mind – maybe the makers were banking on Cabello’s popularity as a pop-star to roll this movie into the hall of fame. Well, that doesn’t change the fact that a good cast is wasted on a weak script.
It’s a 5/10 from me.
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