Amazon Prime Video
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Kay Cannon
Writer: Kay Cannon
Cast: Camila Cabello, Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine with Billy Porter and Pierce Brosnan
Screened at: Critics’ link, SF, 8/29/21
Opens: September 3rd, 2021
Most fairytales include morals and life lessons that can teach people a great deal about compassion and understanding. They show the expectations that society has for everyone and how it’s possible for individuals with dreams and desires to overcome obstacles, provided a bit of magic helps open eyes and doors. Yet they also come with references and ideals that can be quite dated and even problematic, and therefore a modern update infused with new twists and modifications can be very welcome, as in the case of the upbeat and enormously entertaining Cinderella.
Cinderella (Camila Cabello) lives a dreary life, relegated to a basement by her cruel stepmother (Idina Menzel) and hopeless to have the craft she puts into her homemade dresses seen and appreciated by anyone in town. Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) doesn’t have much interest in doing what his father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan), wants from him, but has little choice in the matter, forced to find a princess at the ball. The appearance of Cinderella’s fab godmother (Billy Porter) enables Cinderella a chance to be seen differently, but will she decide on happiness with the prince or a successful business opportunity?
This film maintains enough of the classic story that will be familiar to audiences of any age to be recognizable, but boldly diverges from its typical structure to become something wildly different. The music used is comprised mostly of popular songs that happen to fit the mood or tone of a given scene, and are incorporated into the narrative in an energetic way with lavish choreography and sincere enthusiasm from performers. Several original songs complement those, including enthusiastic renditions from the town crier that serve to bridge together moments of the story and update audiences on what’s happening.
The concept of a woman needing to be rescued by a man in order to find happiness is indeed antiquated, and this film serves to turn that on its head while still acknowledging the power that men are always given in any society. That’s best expressed through two female characters who are members of the royal court and clearly more intelligent than their male counterparts. Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver) has far more sense than her husband, but he has no interest in hearing from her about important matters, and their daughter, Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive), constantly expresses a knack for business and social justice that is shut down every time by her paternalistic patent.
Though it’s presented in a comic manner, it’s reminiscent of the worry some conservative-minded traditionalists had about the comportment of Hillary Clinton as a female president and how men put into power, like Donald Trump or Brett Kavanaugh, had public temper tantrums that were somehow excused as legitimate due to their gender. This film acknowledges that the world has worked and does work this way, but presents an uplifting story of a woman eager for escape whose greatest dream is not to marry a man who will whisk her away but to find a platform for her small business to grow and develop.
The visual aspects of this film are strong, with gorgeous costumes and choreography, and sufficient special effects to illustrate the expected transformation of mice to footmen and the like. The cast is terrific as well, led by the talented and charming Cabello. Galitzine also has charisma and makes for a fitting prince, while Menzel, Brosnan, Driver, and Greive all deliver superbly in their roles. Porter and James Corden, a producer who also portrays one of the enchanted footmen, embrace the camp that this film unapologetically channels, playing into the familiarity of the story with a wondrous and successful effort to revitalize it for a more modern audience.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+