Just as every eligible maiden is invited to the King’s ball, it seems that every movie studio attempts a Cinderella retelling at some point. And despite numerous adaptations of the classic over the years (with Disney taking the lion’s share), Sony decided it was time to try the glass slipper on for size.
The plot of Cinderella needs no introduction. And it seems the filmmakers assume this and, as a result, do little to set up the backstory. Instead, the viewer is thrown into a raucous opening musical menagerie of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and expected to just accept it and enjoy the ride. Because this ain’t your grandma’s Cinderella, honey.
But that’s where Cinderella begins to fall apart. It focuses too much on the pomp and flair than the actual characters themselves, while also trying to be too many things at once.
Cinderella (Camila Cabello) has aspirations to be a world-renowned fashion designer and successful business woman in a man’s world. (Don’t worry, you’ll hear about her dreams and frustrations in her “I Want” song before the clock strikes midnight.) She’s sassy, headstrong, and resilient. But that’s the problem. She’s too good, too predictable, and perhaps too modern. And in 2021, we’ve seen this strong independent woman trope a thousand times before.
Just as the filmmakers brush over her backstory of her parents’ death, Cinderella brushes over this as well. It doesn’t affect her. It’s not relevant to her story. She’s just a servant in her own home. But no biggie, she’s fine. She’s busy (apparently not doing much hard labor) spending all her time sewing dresses in the comfort of her spacious basement.
In contrast to Cinderella, the other characters are one-note and underdeveloped. The stepmother Vivian (Idina Menzel) is kind of mean but not cruel; the stepsisters Malvolia and Narissa (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer, respectively) are impartial wallflowers; and the Fabulous Godmother (Billy Porter) is flamboyant. Each character has a box to check, and once it’s checked, there’s no reason to come back to develop them anymore.
While the music is good, tonally the movie feels off (and we’re not just talking about the overused autotune). Kay Cannon’s Cinderella isn’t quite not sure what it wants to be when it grows up. Is it a hip-hop musical in the style of Hamilton? Or is it a modern twist featuring throwback pop jams instead of traditional ballads? Unable to choose and make up its mind, we get a mishmash of all, causing the audience to suffer from musical whiplash.
On the the positive side, the costume design is stunning. Vivian and her daughters are dressed in vibrant colors, overcompensating in an attempt to stand out and live a life of luxury. This stands in contrast to the muted earth tones of Cinderella, who is simple and plain despite her big dreams.
The royal family is interesting and does add a unique dynamic to the story, which we haven’t seen in other versions. Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is hunky enough and genuinely interested in Cinderella; King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) is less interested in his son’s marriage for simply posterity’s sake but desperately wants to use the union to build a bigger empire; and Queen Beatirce (Minnie Driver) is frustrated with playing second fiddle to the King.
While Cinderella is fun, it veers too far from the beaten path to make it a classic. And when there are already so many successful adaptions out there, it’s easier to go back to the old comfy slipper that we know fits.
Have you seen Cinderella yet? Does the glass slipper fit or not?
Edited by: Kelly Conley