An unspoken rule of Hollywood is that a new version of Cinderella has to be attempted at least once a decade. Brandy (97’s Cinderella) and Drew Barrymore (Ever After) gave it a go in the 90s; while Anne Hathaway (Ella Enchanted) and Hilary Duff (A Cinderella Story) gave the tale a modern spin in the 2000s.
It’s only six years since Kenneth Branagh’s Disney remake with Lily James, which itself came a year after 2014’s Into The Woods, which had Anna Kendrick play the slipper deficient princess. The point is, there are hundreds of adaptations of this fairy tale across many mediums, and any new adaptation is faced with the question – what’s left to say? Amazon thinks it has the answer, putting a lot of money into this non-Disney remake that hopes a new perspective and charts will make up for a lack of originality.
Do you really need the plot explained? Camila Cabello plays the title role of Ella, who dreams of a career in fashion rather than true love. Her aspirations are mocked by her evil step mother (Idina Menzel) and the oppressive town she lives in. She sees a chance to change her life in the form of a ball designed to find the reluctant prince (Nicholas Galitzine) a bride, but she’s looking to impress the masses rather than walk the aisle. Thwarted by her family, Billy Porter’s Fab G (Fairy Godparent) sprinkles some magic to get her to the ball, where she wins attention of the crowd and the heart of the prince. However, despite their chemistry, Ella wants independence, and views a life of waving from the royal box as just another prison.
Handsomely mounted and filled with energy, Cinderella is desperate to be a crowd pleaser as it aspires to Frozen and Greatest Showman levels of theatrical drama. Unfortunately, it misses many notes, with the feminist twist feeling forced and insincere. It’s laudable to have a fairy tale where a woman pursues her own destiny rather than being rescued, but it’s crammed into the Cinderella structure, with the studio still wanting the famous elements of the story to remain. The script is almost embarrassed of itself in places, with lines that were intended to be self-aware coming off as contradictory. It’s a film that tries to be everything to everyone, and as a result may only delight a few.
Despite the jumble, there’s a lot of entertaining moments. Cabello has a lot of charisma, with large eyes that radiate earnest dreams, and a voice that will get toes tapping. The story regularly breaks into jukebox favourites, and while subtlety is nowhere to be found the spectacle is often the film’s strongest suit. As for the notable cast, Pierce Brosnan is all gruffness as the King, guiding a smouldering Galitzine through the necessary parts of the plot.
Menzel is wonderfully spiky and the only member of the cast (besides Cabello) who truly understands what’s needed, making a character that is truly hateful at times. Whoever James Corden’s agent is deserves a raise, as the irritating ensemble filler pops up again (this isn’t even his first Cinderella movie), joining comedians James Acaster and Romesh Ranganathan as the mice-turned-footmen. It’s much as you would expect, with the late-night host proving just as obnoxious but thankfully less present.
It’s unlikely to distinguish itself from its many predecessors, but it’s hardly the worst adaptation of this story. Just as great movies don’t always capture the audience they deserve, it’s possible that the glitz and energy of Cinderella will make it a hit with those who aren’t too fussed about plot and just want to sing along.
Cinderella is available on Amazon Prime Video from 3rd September