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Review: Cinderella (2021)

Camila Cabello is no Brandy. Or Hilary Duff.

Everyone knows that Hollywood makes its fair share of horrendous mistakes. Mistakes like making a shot for shot remake of Psycho (1960) starring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, using horrific CGI instead of practical makeup in the big screen adaptation of Cats (2019) – check out my review, here – and the Golden Globes naming The Martian (2015) the funniest movie of 2015 over Spy (2015). THAT’S RIGHT I’M STILL NOT OVER IT. But one thing Hollywood was right on the money with was when Amazon purchased the distribution rights to Cinderella (2021). This is definitely the kind of movie that you’re much better off streaming from home on your couch than going to see in a theatre. From home this movie is tolerable. If I had to see Cinderella in theatres I probably would have walked out 15 minutes in and made a scene demanding my money back. 

Credit: / Amazon Studios

A modern adaptation of the classic fairy tale of the same name, Cinderella tells the story of Ella, an ambitious young dressmaker who lives with her cruel stepmother and stepsisters. When it’s announced that King Rowan is throwing a ball, Ella plans to go to the ball to impress high society with her skills and change her life.

One skill I’ve come to acquire since I started reviewing movies is that I can instantly tell when a movie is unnecessarily long. An hour and 52 minutes for a “Cinderella” movie was a red flag for me. And I was so right. This movie is too damn long. It does not earn that egregious runtime. When Cinderella is leaving the ball, a scene you would think means that the end is near, there are still 40 minutes left. The movie wastes so much time on mediocre performances and trying to constantly prove how different and much more empowering this version is than past ones that it neglects important things like a well-paced story, interesting characters and quality writing. I think the main problem is that writer and director Kay Cannon gets confused trying to blend her modern take while still hitting all the classic elements of the story.

Look, I love a good fairy tale. But I just have to ask, who is this movie for? Why was this made? Was it necessary? Were we as a people really clamouring for ANOTHER “Cinderella” movie? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE seeing the inclusion of a POC Cinderella and an LGBT+ Fairy Godmother. And hello, who doesn’t love a jukebox musical? That being said, we’re reallyyyyy scraping the bottom of the barrel now when it comes to adapting intellectual property into movies. I think I would have had a much more enjoyable time watching this talented cast in a fresh, original project rather that trudging through ANOTHER adaptation of “Cinderella.” At least give me a different fairy tale! It’s like Cannon watched every previous adaptation of “Cinderella,” took the parts she liked and then stitched them together to make this Frankenstein of a movie. I have a feeling that Cannon was going for the charm and quality of Cinderella (1997) starting Brandy, but her version is far cheesier than that. It’s much more giving Ella Enchanted (2004) vibes. THEY EVEN PERFORM “SOMEBODY TO LOVE!” Obviously not nearly as good as Anne Hathaway’s version, duh. Listen, I’m totally here for the silliness of Ella Enchanted but that movie was intentionally silly. Cannon’s Cinderella never seems to embrace the silliness and camp and instead begs you to take it seriously. Look, I just can’t do that when you show me a trio of mice squeaking along to “Rhythm Nation.”

I don’t really see the point in taking an old story and remaking it so that you fix all the criticisms that people have with it. Why not spend your time and effort on making something new and original that today’s audiences will fall in love with and stand the test of time? Why put a modern spin on an old story that’s already been retold countless times when you could be the mind behind the fresh take of empowerment that inspires a new generation? Cannon’s version of the classic story is obsessed with proving how modern she’s able to interpret the story to the point where she’s practically hitting her message of female power over your head with a sledgehammer. It tries so hard to be hip and trendy that the vibe it gives off is very much “how do you do fellow kids?”

Now, look. I am absolutely here for any movie that puts women-led stories in the spotlight. I love it. They’re just made far less enjoyable when the movie doesn’t allow the characters to thrive organically and instead screams at you to notice how strong they are. It comes off as aggressive and manic and it makes watching the movie exhausting. You could watch Cinderella or you could just listen to the soundtrack and read a good book about female empowerment. They’re pretty much the same experience. Honestly, “A Cinderella story” (2004) has the same message as this movie but is far less obvious about it. Just watch that. It’s probably the best updated retelling of “Cinderella” we’re ever going to get. And honestly, at least that iconic movie is far less derivative and clichéd. It also happens to be surprisingly well put together production-wise. The production design and even the overall theme for Cannon’s Cinderella reads less like a movie and more like if your high school drama club had an idea of how to spice up the the end of the year show. Cannon’s Cinderella has all the flash and substance of a Disney Channel Original Movie. One from like 2015 when they really started to become more generic and cheap-feeling.

I was 10,000 per cent sold on musical veterans like Idina Menzel and Billy Porter being cast as the Evil Stepmother and the Fabulous Godmother respectively, but I have to admit that the casting of Camilla Cabello had me worried going in. Only because she’s not known as an actress. Of all the young, multi-talented performers out there, why choose her? That being said, Cabello isn’t the worst actress. Not by far. In fact, I could see her being in all kinds of Hallmark romantic-comedies. I even think she would make a fantastic voice actress! Unfortunately though there was absolutely zero romantic chemistry between her and Nick Galitzine who plays Prince Robert. If Cannon really wanted to put a twist on the “Cinderella” story she should have written these two as friends rather than lovers because that’s all their chemistry is giving. Cabello is fine but honestly the true star of Cinderella is the raw charisma, talent and mind-blowing vocals of Menzel. Perfectly cast as the flawed Vivian and slaying every cover the soundtrack throws at her, Menzel once again proves that she can could make even the alphabet sound as mesmerizing as an opera as long as she’s singing it. 

Cinderella is not unwatchable but it’s certainly not good. Like, I have a hard time earnestly recommending that you see it. But if you wanna laugh at a silly and slightly confused cheesefest while bobbing your head along to a decent soundtrack than give it a watch. Seriously, I was pretty bored until the next song started. This flash in the pan is certainly not going to become a beloved classic. I mean, hello, there wasn’t even a pumpkin that turned into a coach! What are we doing people?

Have you seen Cinderella?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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