This generation has many Cinderella stories. If you can believe it, in the past 25 years she’s been portrayed by Drew Barrymore, Brandy, Hilary Duff and Lily James – each their own distinct version of the rags to riches young girl saved by a magical night and a misplaced glass slipper. That said, it has been awhile since Cinderelly belted out a tune, and this new iteration starring Camila Cabello is very much a pop star’s Cinderella. Against an nondescript old timey setting, get ready for lively covers of songs from Madonna, Queen and Jennifer Lopez and her Fairy Godmother exclaiming “Yas future queen, yaas!” as she dressed up for the ball.
Sony’s take on Cinderella, which was nabbed by Amazon Prime Video for an exclusive streaming release, doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does have fun spinning it in its own way. The full-fledged musical, written and directed by Pitch Perfect’s Kay Cannon, dances boldly into midnight with a distinctly modern approach to the classic princess story and stays playful and loose the entire time. This Cinderella knows you’ve seen the likes of it time and time again, and asks you to simply sit back and take comfort in this remixed rerun.
Cinderella’s sensational cast alone, led by Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel, makes for a fun watch.
Cinderella is Camila Cabello’s first acting credit, but it doesn’t show. The “Senorita” singer is blooming with spunk and fervor as a more entrepreneurial Ella, who is all about making it in fashion rather than dreaming of a prince to take her away from her stepmother (Idina Menzel) and stepsisters (Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer). Cabello’s moments on screen are electric as her voice explodes with songs like her original “Million To One,” even duetting with herself in one empowering sequence. She creates her own version of Cinderella in a world of a lot of Cinderellas.
Alongside her is the incredible Idina Menzel as her stepmother, who also takes a well-known character and brings a thoughtful twist to what we know with a more subtle and complex version of Cinderella’s enemy. Menzel’s voice carries the most weight in Cinderella, and it's enough to send chills. Billy Porter’s Fairy Godmother is absolutely stunning and Pierce Brosnan absolutely steals every one of his scenes as the disappointed king to Cinderella’s Prince Charming, played by newcomer Nicholas Galitzine. The cast is dazzling through and through, and they’re having fun playing with the material of Cinderella without too many constraints or egos involved.
Cinderella’s attempts to be hip and modern are hit and miss.
This Cinderella aims to update the story with a new twist that places the passions of Cabello’s Ella front and center and pulls back the romance between Galitzine’s Prince into what they’ve always been: passing strangers just getting to know each other. The set up is a bit clunky, not wholly original nor surprising, but this is Cinderella; we know the gist here. Some of the new setups are really fun to see play out, while others are just lukewarm and you kind of just want to roll your eyes at them.
The way in which Cinderella becomes a musical is through a wide array of instrumentation that isn’t really cohesive, but at the very least it's on its toes. One moment we’re on the ‘80s train with renditions of “Material Girl” and “Somebody To Love” and the next minute we’re heading into more contemporary ballads like “Am I Wrong” and Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” The song choices are all of the Top 40 variety, adding to an odd, but fun experience of singing along to the words of a movie you’ve never seen before.
Bottomline, there are far too many Cinderella movies already.
If you take Cinderella for what it is, it’s a joyous take on the fairytale that seeks to engage its audience in a slightly different way than we’ve seen prior. Of the Cinderella’s we know, it’s probably closest to the Brandy version from 1997. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it feels as if you’ve wandered into a matinee of a theatre production you’ll bop along to. But it won’t necessarily leave you clamoring for rewatch upon rewatch. This version of Cinderella fits like a worn sneaker: comforting to wear, pleasing to walk around in, but that’s kind of it. And that’s okay! Cinderella has a ton of shoes to write home about already.
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