Cinderella has exactly one idea to distinguish it, and it’s a bad one.
2021’s latest interpretation of the Cinderella fairy tale comes courtesy of Pitch Perfect mastermind Kay Cannon (here directing) and is based on an “original idea” from James Corden. It’s unclear what this eye-roll-worthy latter point means exactly, as the classic folk tale has been adapted innumerably throughout history, dating back even to Greek mythology in general conception, but the performer’s involvement offers a general impression of the shape of this rehash: it’s archer, cheekier (though not as much as it thinks), and… a jukebox musical. After Disney’s animated musical film — sort of, with only six tracks — in 1950 and the studio’s subsequent 2015 retread, gorgeously-mounted but sans any catchy musicality (and a film which also kicked off in earnest the studio’s mostly idiotic onslaught of live-action remakes, excepting Alice in Wonderland’s earlier production), it makes sense for another studio to savvily capitalize on the story’s public domain status and its built-in pull in the midst of the Mouse House’s fairy tale renaissance (at least in quantity).
What is there to distinguish this non-Disney version, then? Predictably, the answer is little. This bubblegum version of the fairy tale — which is soundtracked in its climax to an Ed Sheeran track, again telling you everything you need to know — stars Camila Cabello as the titular maid, the appropriately gorgeous Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Robert, Broadway icons Idina Menzel and Billy Porter as the wicked stepmother and Fabulous Godmother respectively, and some other people in some other roles. Honestly, very little is of note here beyond Pierce Brosnan, hamming it up with knee-slapping archness in the role of King Rowan. Cabello at least proves an eminently charming and likeable lead in her debut film role, but it’s in service of an empty adaptation. Truly, the only conceit here is to “contemporize” the “musical” aspect of the film, with a soundtrack constructed upon Janet Jackson, Madonna, Queen, White Stripes, J. Lo, and Earth, Wind & Fire cuts, along with obligatory original songs courtesy of Cabello and Menzel, of course. (Who even is this film targeting?) But this is no Moulin Rouge, and is instead an entirely perfunctory affair with alternately bland renditions and seriously weird arrangements that leak fun from the chosen tracks at every opportunity. But hey, a squad of red-and-blue clad armored guards perform a choreographed routine to “Somebody to Love,” so if that’s your thing, mileage may vary with this pap.
More egregious is the film’s limp-dicked nod toward some girlboss feminist zeal, which is introduced and then terminates within roughly a two-minute span, a moral which hinges wholly on the very relatable problem of obligated princesship (and, of course, what can be extrapolated from that, blah blah blah). The obvious Harry and Meghan comp that comes in the film’s “progressive” climax offers a bit of a campy wink, but it’s a singular pleasure amidst the film’s technical mess — the costuming is nonsensical and the many musical montages are frequently shot with insane low angles and endlessly revolving camerawork — and its utterly unimaginative update of the familiar tale. Cannon is simply outclassed with this material, even as both leads prove notably assured and keep the film from fully circling the drain. But while the film establishes some necessary whimsy on the strength of their interply and Brosnan’s game buffoonery, there’s isn’t nearly enough here to justify its existence a mere six years after the last Cinderella, let alone recommend it as a worthy watch in its own right. There’s a scene near the end where Corden’s human shape is returning to its original mouse form post-midnight stroke, and for a few seconds his giant melon sits atop a petite mouse body in aghast horror. It’s a succinct representation of Cannon’s film on the whole: one big, obnoxious idea in the form of a Cinderella jukebox musical, ticking off karaoke hits in the Pitch Perfect mold, but with simply too little underneath to support its outwardly grand but ultimately shallow conceit.
You can currently stream Kay Cannon’s Cinderella on Amazon Prime Video.