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Camila Cabello in Cinderella.
Camila Cabello in Cinderella.
Photo: Kerry Brown/Amazon Studios




Amazon Prime Video


2/5 Stars


Cinderella is a musically-driven bold new take on the traditional story you grew up with. Our heroine (Camila Cabello) is an ambitious young woman whose dreams are bigger than the world will allow, but with the help of her Fab G (Billy Porter), she is able to persevere and make her dreams come true. 


The story of glass slippers and magical godmothers have been retold by Hollywood a thousand-and-one ways, each time twisting it into a hot new take that aims to modernise the princess fairy tale for today's audience of young women. Cinderella herself has come a long way since Disney's first retelling of the story, which has probably cemented the classic foundation of the folk tale that spans many centuries and continents.

Peasant girl marries prince gets another makeover with Amazon's new original movie, this time a jukebox musical that leans in heavily into the oppression of women and their limiting choices outside of marriage. Ella dreams of becoming a famous dressmaker and moving out of her stepmother's basement. But in this backwards kingdom, her family believes the only way for a woman to rise in social standing and secure her future is through a rich husband. She catches the eye of the prince, whose father wants him married and settled down at all costs, and she must choose between security and living her life free.

It's hard to pinpoint what this movie was trying to be. Somewhere there was a studio exec that said they wanted a Cinderella movie and didn't care how it came about. It's produced by James Corden, who has a thankfully small role as one of Ella's badly CGI'd mouse friends, and written and directed by the Pitch Perfect franchise writer Kay Cannon. They cherry-picked some hit songs, repackaged them into trite, shallow feminist drool and dropped a pop star into the lead. Poor Camilla Cabello really put everything into the role, but outside of the singing, her acting was a gooey, bubbly mess where she's constantly surprised by everything. Somehow they also managed to drag Billy Porter, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver and Idina Menzel into this mess - all actors who were wasted on this cash-grab.

Porter had to slug his way through some painfully cringey 'yass queen' dialogue that I can only surmise was influenced by Corden, while Brosnan and Driver as king and queen proved to make for a far more enticing story than the actual main plot. Menzel as stepmother was something a little different at least, making her less evil and more caring of Ella's wellbeing, but rather hardened by the daft patriarchal society, they found themselves in.

At least the filmmakers made sure everyone can sing at least, even making a little Mamma Mia jab about Brosnan's complete inability to sing on key. Some of the costumes were also spectacular, from Porter's fabulous golden sparkles to the princess' suitors at the ball. Ella's creations were maybe a little too drab for someone with a sense of fashion.

In the end, Cinderella tried just a little too hard to be quirky and modern in an overly conservative fairy tale kingdom, also cringingly referred to as a 'fashion kingdom', to actually come across as original. It was a poor man's Ella Enchanted, complete with a soulful rendition of Queen's Somebody to Love which felt weirdly ripped off from the cult classic. They wanted so hard for this film to be 'not like those other movies' that it, in fact, became a 'look-at-me' movie. I'm all for infusing a little gender equality into classic fairy tales, but this Cinderella just turned it into trivial pandering for the sake of it.

Even if you love a classic musical, Cinderella is just too much of a try-hard to enjoy, and even its rare bright spots are too few and far between to just watch it for the banging songs. Luckily for the studio, they opted for streaming, where you're more likely to find bored eyeballs, rather than a cinematic release, where it would have rightfully crashed and burned.


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