- Hamish Hart
Cinderella (2021) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
50 YEARS following the unprecedented success of Walt Disney's rendition of the classic folk tale Cinderella, director Kay Cannon attempts to put her own spin on the story, and while the Emmy-nominated writer definitely updated the fable, this begs the question: was it necessary?
Cinderella is a tale as old as time (sorry, wrong fable); an orphaned Cinderella (Camila Cabello) has dreams of a greater life than her stepmother Vivian (Idina Menzel) has given. But as the grand ball approaches where Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) hopes to find his perfect bride, Cinderella, with the help of her Fabulous Godmother (Billy Porter), looks to make a spontaneous impression and make her dreams a reality.
Reimagining classic stories, for the most part, is perfectly acceptable, but in the case of Cinderella, extreme measures must be taken in order to make audiences care about a 71-year old tale. Cannon realised this and changed several key aspects of the film such as gender swapping The Fairy Godmother and giving personalities to both Cinderella and Prince Robert, humanising their characters and allowing audiences to relate to their respective struggles of chasing a clear dream and familial expectations. Prince Robert, and by affiliation Princess Gwen, shine as improved characters due to Gwen being a much better choice for the throne, with even her brother agreeing she should rule the kingdom, but their father and king is continually insistent Robert must role before inevitably realising Gwen deserves the throne, modernising the film and giving younger women better role models to relate to as appose to the 1950 Cinderella, who also has been improved.
For her acting debut, Cabello does a decent job at portraying an atypical princess. Her goals and ambitions are painted clearly, with the film not only including her dream of wanting to become a fashion designer, but also shifting the formula of her character arc as by the time the clock strikes midnight, Cinderella politely refuses Prince Robert's marriage proposal, instead choosing to live life as a middle classic dressmaker, showing young women that happiness doesn't have to be solidified through a ring and that you can find success being single. However, this is where the film stops being good as while the messages are indeed positive, the manner of how they're delivered is feeble to say the least.
Unforgettable songs such as A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes have been replaced with chart-topping singles, ranging from Madonna's Material Girl to The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. These songs on their own are phenomenal pieces of music, but when implemented into the world of Cinderella, they become meaningless and laughable. One of the most egregious cases of this is the mashup of Salt N' Pepa's Whatta Man and the aforementioned Seven Nation Army. This mashup is played during the initial ballroom scene where women attempt to seduce Prince Robert; it becomes ironically hilarious as the tone is all over the place and doesn't fit the feeling the scene is supposed to exude which is that of allurement.
Aside from the confusing choice of tunes, as a standalone movie, Cinderella just doesn't work. The pacing is all over the place, with characters changing their minds in mere seconds, as well as the final act beginning and ending within the span of 15 minutes. Cannon has shown competent film making in the past with her surprisingly-good comedy Blockers, but any attempt at comedy falls on deaf ears as this updated version understandably includes modern jokes and references, most of which come from James Corden, and depending of your toleration of the contentious comedian, you will either loathe or love Cinderella's comedic moments, and for me, I loathed it.
Cinderella is an interesting film as while alot of its messages were wonderful, their delivery came off disingenuous. Majority of the actors completely phoned in their performances, with Cabello being the only one to put effort into her portrayal of the princess since this was her acting debut; the songs that were selected, while decent out of context, failed to translate well into this fable world, resulting in a mismatched tone throughout. Your enjoyment of Cinderella will vary on your enjoyment of modern retellings - if you're a fan of eccentric characters and covers of pop songs by talented singers such as Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel, Cinderella is an easy recommendation, but if you're like me and were looking for a component, well-told story with meaningful tunes seamlessly included throughout, Cannon's bold take on this classic fairy tale may be one to skip; still better than the 2015 version though.