Cinderella (2021): Walking on Broken Glass
Sony and Amazon's newest rendition of the classic tale of Cinderella shows that there is close to nothing that anyone can do to make the story fresh, original or relevant. Do not get me wrong, I like the story and premise of Cinderella, but the problem is that it has been done so many times and the 'modern' changes to the story have been done to death already. Cinderella is a 'strong independent woman', the stepmother has a tragic backstory, the fairy 'godmother' is a guy, it has been done before in better films. The attempts to defy classic tropes are becoming tropes in themselves. That aside, is Cinderella any good? Honestly, no. Directed and written by Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect) and partially produced by everyone's favorite punching bag James Corden, this film has a myriad of problems that would make the audience cringe and question "What were they thinking?"
The Story and Writing
The premise of this rendition of Cinderella would take place in a very traditional yet very modernized village where Ella (Camila Cabello) dreams of being a fashion designer and owning her own clothing store while her stepmother Vivian (Idina Menzel) wants to marry her off. Meanwhile, Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) has to choose a bride in order to inherit the kingdom from his father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) or else he will lose the throne to his sister Gwen (Tallulah Greive). From there, we get the check list of events that happen in the Cinderella stories; there's a ball that the stepmother forbids Ella to go to, there is a 'fabulous godmother' (Billy Porter) that helps Ella go to the ball and so on.
The story has a lot of problems and part of it comes from the attempts to 'modernize it'. One example of this is Vivian telling Ella that women taking part in business is 'insane' yet in earlier scenes, we see them working in shops and working alongside men in jobs such as musicians during the 'The New Barry' song. You cannot say that women can't do the jobs men have and show that they are doing said jobs. It doesn't help that Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver) has shown to talk back to the king, which asking any of Henry the Eighth's wives, doesn't work out well. Also, how can the kingdom be very traditional when the King threatens to give his daughter leadership of the kingdom? If you modernize something, you have to go all the way, you cannot just say that the setting is traditional and conservative yet there are female leaders of nations, discussions of wage inequality and wind energy.
The setting is also something to question as they try to depict the kingdom as taking place in older times and yet there is conversations about using wind energy instead of coal and we can see modern instruments that would not exist during those times in the movie. The identity of this movie is a mishmash of conflicting ideas and it leaves the audience scratching their heads in confusion.
The ending, while different from the original story giving an alternative 'happy ending', doesn't really live up to the premise. If you watched the trailer, you could have easily predicted how the movie will end, giving the audience no surprise at all.
The writing also suffers with the use of modern dialogue and jokes that do not late. Billy Porter calling one of the characters 'Cray' is an indicator of the kind of dialogue that we can expect throughout the entire film. There are also some very questionable lines in this movie, one of them being an incest joke that is made by Robert to his sister and a conversation about the mice realizing how humans go to the bathroom.
Also, this comes off as more of a query but Billy Porter, a black man, comes to help Ella by using magic to help solve her problems...Isn't that the 'magical negro' stereotype?
To give the film some credit, the actors did their jobs fine and they filled their roles well. It is just that the film doesn't give them much to work with. Idina Menzel is always fun to watch when she acts over-the-top evil and Pierce Brosnan comes off as a believable king having to deal with his family problems. I also have to give credit that they did not make the step-sisters too overtly evil, they do show them have some appreciation and respect for Ella. On a side note, it's funny that they call Ella 'Cinderella' because 'her skin is besmirched by cinders' when you can look at her skin and see that it is flawless. But then you have Ella, who comes off as more of a knock off Belle from Beauty and the Beast, a young woman who wants more from life, is intelligent and determined to beat gender norms. It does not help her stand out, it makes her come off as more of a copy of modern female leads in fairy tale movies. On a separate note, James Corden as one of the mice, tries to be a comedic relief, but yet again, he is shown to be not funny with jokes about clapping being loud, fat jokes and the aforementioned peeing joke. Why Hollywood keeps putting him in musicals is beyond me. It almost seems like a 'kiss of death' for musicals nowadays.
The Cinematography and Special Effects.
The cinematography and camera work is done well, we can see all of the action and the focus is always on the right places. The choreography is also well done, which is one of the film's good points. Watching the actors dance during the ball is one of the film's highlights and helps keep the audience's attention.
The CGI in this movie is a mixed bag. While Billie Porter's transformation scene looks fine, the mice are noticeably fake looking, which is startling when you realize that Stuart Little from twenty two years ago has better effects than this movie. This is made worse when James Corden's head is super imposed onto the mouse's body.
The choices when it comes to the music in this film is questionable to say the least. As the music is a juke box musical of rock and pop, with a few original songs tossed in, it is always a gamble to see if the songs work with the story. Some of them do, and some of them do not. An example of this not working would be Prince Robert singing Queen's Somebody to Love and he is singing about how hard he works, yet in a prior scene he is chastised for drinking and foxhunting for the past three days. Though an example of this working would be the mix of Whatta Man and Seven Nation Army, a number that makes you thing of the over-the-top energy of Moulin Rouge.
Giving the film some credit, the actors can sing the songs well. Watching Idina Menzel singing Material Girl is great and there are some songs that will stand out and have replay value such as Million to One. But there is some tonal and vocal clashing in the film. Noticeably, you have Idina Menzel who is using her natural singing voice and then you have Camila Cabello using auto-tune.
The 2021 Amazon/Sony Cinderella is a cluttered mess with a confused identity, forced politics, questionable writing and dialogue, moderately decent acting and surprisingly decent music. But does that mean the movie is worth watching? No, no it does not. If anything, buy or stream the soundtrack to this but do not watch the movie. It just isn't worth it and it is a shame that after Amazon did so much advertising for this movie and a very controversial and much hated PR stunt (that somehow didn't end with vehicular manslaughter), it all comes to nothing special.
Cinderella is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.