Cinderella (United States/United Kingdom, 2021)

September 02, 2021
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Cinderella Poster

It’s unclear why the filmmakers felt we needed another Cinderella adaptation, especially one with such an amateurish, made-for-TV aesthetic. It’s not as if there hasn’t been a recent one – Kenneth Branagh’s live-action version is only six years old and is superior in every aspect to this one. What the 2015 version lacks, however, are the awful pop songs that pollute this soundtrack, transforming it from a middling, forgettable fairy tale adaptation into an unwatchably unforgettable bad musical. With a nod to Baz Lurhmann, the film features not only new versions of older songs (including ones made famous by Madonna and Queen) but a cavalcade of generic material designed to highlight star Camila Cabello, whose vocal stylings are grating and who can neither lip-synch nor act.

Cabello isn’t the only problem with the film, which was seemingly designed with her fanbase in mind. In the singing department, Idina Menzel is a significant step up, but her acting isn’t a lot better. The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t represent an improvement, including Nicholas Galitzine’s Prince Robert (who at times does an admirable job of imitating a piece of wood), Billy Porter’s fairy godsomething Fab G (sufficiently over-the-top to be moderately amusing in small doses), and the terminally annoying Tallulah Greive, whose Princess Gwen is as irritating as nails on a blackboard. James Corden plays a mouse, which somehow seems appropriate, and manages to create an even worse impression than he did in Cats. Minnie Driver and Pierce Brosnan provide a meager dose of star power, although there are times when the former James Bond appears embarrassed. But a paycheck’s a paycheck, right?

 The basic story is probably known to about 95% of those reading this and 2021’s Cinderella hasn’t embarked upon any major revisions, although anything that might be deemed politically incorrect has been scrubbed out. (For example, the “wicked stepmother” and “wicked stepsister” stereotypes have been excised. Now, they’re misunderstood, overwhelmed, and either sympathetic or used for “comic” relief.) You know how it goes: a poor girl, whose real name is Ella (Cabello), but is called Cinderella by her stepmother (Menzel) and stepsisters (Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer), toils in poverty with little hope of escape. One day, however, a fairy appears to her and offers a temporary transformation so she can attend a grand ball. While there, she catches the eye of the handsome prince (Nicholas Galitzine), who is under orders from his father, the king (Pierce Brosnan), to find a wife. When midnight arrives, Cinderella dashes, leaving behind only a glass slipper. Unwilling to give up on true love, the prince scours the countryside for the girl who captured his heart.

 This rancid Cinderella concoction was assembled by Kay Canon, whose previous directorial credit, Blockers, was considerably raunchier. She also wrote all three Pitch Perfect movies and co-produced the two sequels. Her work on those movies is more in line with what she has accomplished with this latest abomination. It goes without saying that the classic Disney animated film had more heart, more energy, and better music. In fact, looking at the list of Cinderella adaptations I have seen, none comes close to this level of badness.

I suppose there’s an audience out there, especially since the film has been sent directly to Amazon’s Prime Video service. They may find the movie to be “harmless,” “peppy,” and “diverting.” To me, it feels like an affront to legitimate motion pictures, regardless of how bad they might be, to classify this alongside them. To close, I thought I’d borrow from Roger Ebert. Although the following sentiments were written about North, they’re a close representation of how I feel about Cinderella, the worst excuse for a movie I have seen since the beginning of the pandemic (and probably longer than that): “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it.” There. That just about sums it up.

Cinderella (United States/United Kingdom, 2021)

Director: Kay Cannon
Cast: Camila Cabello, James Corden, Charlotte Spencer, Maddie Baillio, Billy Porter, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine, Idina Menzel, Tallulah Greive
Home Release Date: 2022-06-21
Screenplay: Kay Cannon
Cinematography: Henry Braham
Music: Jessica Weiss
U.S. Distributor: Amazon Prime
Run Time: 1:53
U.S. Release Date: 2021-09-03
MPAA Rating: "PG"
Genre: Musical/Fantasy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1