Cinderella (2021) Synopsis: A modern musical take on the classic fairy tale. Our ambitious heroine Ella (Camila Cabello) has big dreams to start her own business, and with the help of her fab Godmother (Billy Porter), she perseveres to make them come true.
Pitch Perfect writer and Blockers director Kay Cannon reimagines an age-old fairy tale with her poppy take on Cinderella. Cannon attempts to deliver her brand of catchy musical remixes and upbeat feminist ideals to Ella’s journey of self-discovery. However, this colorfully vapid production fails to infuse much life into the familiar fairy tale.
In an effort to connect with the modern zeitgeist, Cannon’s film reeks of overproduced tendencies. Similar to Pitch Perfect, Cannon runs through the gamut of once-famed pop culture tracks. Her team of songwriters tries to imbue some playful modern twists, but the songs feel too generically clean for their own good. The heavy reliance on auto-tune and uninspired genre switch-ups creates a tracklist of songs that feel almost factory-made in their cynical nature. Even the few original tracks are too thankless to register an impression, preaching the same “believe in your dream” message that other films have peddled with far more sincerity.
The film’s modern infusions also falter on a narrative front. I applaud Cannon’s script for its efforts to confront the fairy tale’s dated norms, shifting Ella’s dreams of being a princess to a desire to run her own business. However, her pursuits lack meaningful follow-through. The clumsy messaging possesses an overt cheeriness to mask the lack of substance, never engaging with its inspiration ideas with much thought past rah-rah sentiments. Viewing Ella’s journey through a modern lens isn’t without promise, but the lack of humanity under the surface leaves little to engross audiences.
Where the material struggles, the talented ensemble can’t do enough to pick up the pieces. Stars Camila Cabello and Nicholas Galitzine showcase their vocal talents, yet neither actor possesses the charisma to animate their lifeless roles. The noticeable lack of chemistry derails the duo from selling audiences on their happily ever after romance. A star-studded ensemble, including Billy Porter, Idina Menzel, and Pierce Brosnan, is also severely underutilized in their thanklessly brief appearances.
Cinderella has become a punching bag on the internet, and while I am no fan of the film, it’s strange to see why (I can understand hating on the James Corden factor at least). The film is the kind of perfunctory romp that won’t interest audiences who have sifted through superior iterations of Cinderella. That said, I could see the film’s brisk energy and boisterous tracks exciting younger viewers. Cannon also deserves props for trying to imbue vitality into an age-old story, with her distinct sensibility still presenting promise despite the film’s failure.
Outside of appealing to the film’s core demographic, Cinderella’s misguided execution does little to liven its familiar proceedings.