Cinderella has survived a lot over the years, first the foster mother and the midnight stay and then hundreds of versions and adaptations to books, television, and movies, made by almost everyone, including Walt Disney, Julie Andrews, Jerry Lewis, Drew Barrymore, Anne Hathaway, Rodgers, and Hammerstein. You’ll survive in this deceptive version, too, a mish-mash of endless air quotes and overcrowding that wants to grab you by the shoulders and shout – no, sing – “BE ENTERTAINED.” And sometimes it is. But the movie is smaller than a string of TikTok clips and made my eyes roll around like pinwheels.
In fairness, my five-year-old cousin will love you. It is very helpful that the Cinderella story is a classic for a reason. The plot of the story, about a miserable but pure-hearted girl who finds the best change and the old myth of happiness always, ends from many cultures going back to recorded history. There are times in this film when this incorruptible story shines through, without all the effort to cover it with captions of pop songs and blink the audience.
Each generation brings its own perspective on the issue of Cinderella. The latest versions focus on more diversity (Brandy / Whitney Houston’s version), more agency (“Ever After”), or at least a better description of her listening (“Ella Enchanted”). In this version, Cinderella (singer Camila Cabello) has big dreams of becoming a tailor and supporting herself so that she can no longer live in her stepmother’s room. She also tries to give her stepmother (Idina Menzel) some insight into her cruelty and to look down on the insignificant girl of her two adopted sisters.
But the role of author/director Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”) skipped “Cinderella” and left the story unequal. It is possible to give the main character a lot of ambitions, independence, and humor without demeaning everyone around him or her. But attributes are given here, one character, a challenge, and even the most talented actors who can win: the king (Pierce Brosnan) is a dictator, the queen (Minnie Driver) is frustrated, the princess (Tallulah Grieve) learns public policy, and the mythical figure (Billy Porter as Fasa G).
Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) has absolutely no qualms other than being beautiful, singing beautifully, and crazy about Cinderella. It should be a running joke he is referred to as the “Idiot Son of the Lord.” But it is no different. Okay, maybe not stupid, but the kind of corrupt slacker that is clear on what he doesn’t like but isn’t very clear on what he might be interested in.
Audiences may not be able to see all of that, however, because there is so much going on, and most of them are lovely and colorful with large bright dance numbers. So predicting a five-year-old, and, I have to admit, is a five-year-old living in all of us. The movie begins with an open number showing local people dancing to … “Rhythm Nation.” Yes, Janet Jackson’s style of the new national anthem, which seeks social justice, is simply a matter of the 18th or 19th-century singing as they prepare for the day.
On the other hand, it is undoubtedly peppy and powerful, with many popular songs from the time of Gen Z’s parents and grandparents, such as “What a Man,” “Shining Star,” and “Seven Nation Army.” But the Queen’s “Lover Man” is a negative reminder that it was better used in “Ella Enchanted.”
Music numbers are much better than conversation, which is cutesy. Not once, but twice, we hear that the prince “is still being beaten to a tush-tush.” Even Porter’s summary can’t keep up with his lines about the fact that glass slippers aren’t comfortable.
Music characters love to introduce themselves with the song “I Want”, so we meet Cinderella, in her underground workshop, keeping a caterpillar from the spider web and singing “You Gotta Be” by Desiree. So, what do you want? To be brave, strong, wise, and better, and to love to save the day. She is beautiful, optimistic, and popular with rats, one of which was expressed by producer James Corden. This is another reminder that one of the reasons why a producer should not be in a movie is that producer are not the best judge of whether they add value to a movie.
Insanity and unequal softness are a negative distraction from the true thrill of the film, including Cabello’s impressive performance as Cinderella, and powerful and powerful musical numbers. The story of Cinderella should have asked Fab G to make up.