Whether you believe we needed another rendition of Cinderella’s story or not, we’ve got one in the form of an Amazon Studios original film that dares to be edgy whenever it gets the chance. Written and directed by Kay Cannon, Cinderella takes the story we all know and flips the script ever so slightly with a more modernised version of events.
Taking the form of both an original and jukebox musical, Cinderella finds its groove whenever it jumps into one of the many musical sequences. From its original songs to covers of popular hits, these are the star moments of the film, especially when it’s headlined by professional singers. Backed by the brilliant singing performances of Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel, the songs up the mood, put a smile on the face of the audience and creating some great sing-along opportunities. It’s also neat to see how the covered songs are chosen to fit right into where the story is at certain points, with the lyrics vaguely connecting to what the characters are thinking. So yes, the music is pretty damn great – but music doesn’t make a movie on its own.
With the quality of music, this could have been a strong Cinderella rendition – if only the narrative tying the songs together was good. The one thing that I feel works about the story is the extra layer of depth they give Cinderella as a character, strengthening her as a career-driven woman and not just the ‘princess’. It’s the one meaningful addition that’s handled decently well. Whereas when it comes to everything else, the story is pretty dull and unexciting. As I mentioned before, it’s a more daring and edgy take on the classic tale, weaving in modern dialogue and including commentary on the current ‘issues’ surrounding representation in media. The changes don’t feel like they’re forcing an agenda, it’s just that they’re things that don’t enhance the content in any way. For a narrative that’s been told time and time again, this film fails to do anything to make it interesting to follow.
The other let-down comes in the form of the dialogue, which doesn’t do the film any favours. Between the cringe-worthy and forced conversations to a couple of pretty bad lines here and there, it all just takes you out of the scene. It’s as if the most care was taken to get the musical sequences right, and everything else was just an afterthought.
In terms of the cast, it’s clear it’s been largely filled with individuals who can deliver strong singing performances. On top of Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel, there’s Pierce Brosnan, Billy Porter and Nicholas Galitzine who all pull their weight in their respective musical sequences. They’re all entertaining in those moments, but don’t do much to elevate the actual story. Camila Cabello is an absolute superstar when it comes to her singing abilities and she gives it her all when it comes to her debut acting role. She does exhibit some of the screen-commanding charm that she should have as the lead, but she also has room for improvement – which is expected for a debut role. Unfortunately, no one else really stands out, mostly a result of the dialogue and narrative falling flat. Also, thankfully, James Corden is only in the film for a maximum of 5-10 minutes, barely making an impact and not overdoing it with his in-your-face comedic style.
In the end, one thing is clear with Cinderella – without the songs, it would have been a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely entertaining sequences in here and I did have some fun with the film. However, all of my enjoyment of this came from the musical moments and the fact that the covers that they perform are mostly all songs I know and love. Beyond the musical elements, there’s nothing to get excited about. The acting is serviceable, dialogue isn’t great and story isn’t intriguing enough to hold up on its own. Sure, it gets credit for trying to evolve the narrative beyond the classic tale, but it’s just not successful in its goals. I’d say you can still throw this on in the background for the musical sequences alone, scrolling through social media until the songs kick in.