“Don’t be late.”
It’s a tale as old as time. Ehhhh, you know what I mean.
Over the years, the account of Cinderella has been turned, flipped, and mirrored in just about every way imaginable. Studios have used the story’s structure for countless projects, always hailing the newest reincarnation as the best. Bold and courageous, Kay Cannon’s attempt to revamp and modernize the classic fairytale into a more TikTok-friendly environment is, at its core, creative. But the end result serves as a reminder that creativity without execution is a hard note to sing.
Opening to a town ensemble rendition of “Rhythm Nation,” Cinderella stars Camila Cabello as the titular character. Though historically stowed away in the basement, taunted by her evil stepmother, here things appear a little brighter for our kind-hearted orphan - at least on the surface.
A dressmaker who dreams of opening her own shop in the town market, Cinderella is persistent in finding her own way, inarguably independent in her journey. Her stepmother (Idina Menzel) needs her daughters to marry rich, a task that can bring great pride to the family and rid them of the uncertainty of their future.
When a reluctant Prince (Nicholas Galitzine) finds himself forced to take a bride, he proposes a ball open to every unspoken woman. The ripple effect of that decision is felt at Cinderella’s home, where she conjures up a beautiful dress to meet up with a man with whom she sold a garment at the market. For her, it is all about business, a possibility to leave her basement and make a name for herself. For her stepmother, her presence marks a distraction from her two daughters.
The events that follow are neither magical nor impressive. The majestic transformation bestowed on Cinderella by way of her fairy godmother (Billy Porter) is painfully anti-climatic. The dress, a dream design by our future shop owner, is undeniably gorgeous; however, little beyond the fabric offers a feeling of grandness. The carriage is basic, the trio of escorts noticeably flat. For the knowing build-up of the previous hour, the delivery was bland, stuffy, and dare I say tiring.
Lost within the confines of its attempt to showcase a new, more modern Cinderella, Cannon fails to mature the story. A sharply underused Tallulah Greive, as a beautifully progressive Princess Gwen, marks one of the many opportunities the story fails to capitalize on in its quest to be a more prosperous, sophisticated example of modern culture. But the story is harshly reliant on its formula, refusing to segway from its approach as it attempts to breathe fresh life into an old-school fairytale.
Cannon leans heavily on the voice talent of her leading stars. Though the film thrives primarily on the popular songs interwoven within the flat story, the numbers add only a small degree of distraction from the otherwise uninteresting and heavily underwhelming story arc. That isn’t to say the acting itself is terrible; a quality script is required for that level of judgment. But this likely isn’t the stature of film Cabello pictured as her feature film debut.
The final scenes are as predictable as one would expect, putting to an end an unneeded and unfortunate recrafting of a classic. There was hope, most notably given the stellar cast, but insipid dialogue that is both unnatural and trite plagues the film from its onset. Even a slew of popular songs and a Hamilton-style news bulletin can’t salvage this film from its destiny, which, by all standards, is saying enough.
*This film is streaming globally on Amazon Prime Video.