Director: Kay Cannon | 1h 53mins | Musical, Romance
Based on the famous fairy tale, Ella (Camila Cabello) has big dreams of becoming a dressmaker, whilst her stepmother (Idina Menzel) attempts to marry her off. At the same time, Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is forced into finding himself a suitable wife.
2015 is as far as we have to go to find another rendition of the classic fairy tale, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella was Disney’s attempt to update the story. Whilst nothing special, it was a serviceable outing that begged the question – why? With so many takes on the story, what does this one add? It’s another question asked when watching Kay Cannon’s take (who’s likely known for writing the Pitch Perfect trilogy, and best work is her 2018 directorial debut Blockers), with a cast everyone can recognise, on the surface it seems like it could have been another decent attempt to tell a worn out story, albeit unnecessary. Instead we’re given a boring, sluggish two hours with little to actually enjoy.
Arguably the biggest update made is the changing of our lead’s name to Ella, with her stepsisters calling her Cinderella because she is often covered in cinder from her jobs around the house. The stupidity of this is referenced in our awkwardly appearing narrator, the Fabulous Godmother, played by a charismatic Billy Porter. Just because the film is self referential in it’s worst aspects, it doesn’t stop it from being bad. Ella dreams big of becoming a famous dressmaker, living in the basement of her stepmother’s house talking to her only friends, a trio of rats in James Cordon, Romesh Ranganathan and James Acaster – all talents wasted here, the peak of their comedy is musings on how humans go to the toilet once they’re turned into Ella’s footmen.
On the other end of the social spectrum, Prince Robert is forced by his father King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) to host a ball to find a wife, at the reluctance of Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver). After some trite shenanigans, Robert finds a way to invite Ella to the event so they can marry. Sound familiar? Story-wise, there’s no new ground being covered at all, and in reality there’s not much of a narrative at play. It acts more like loosely connected plot points (that you’re likely extremely familiar with) interspersed between bland covers of pop and rock songs most people will know.
Often the jokes just come across with a certain amount of snide and accidental cringe that completely misses the mark.
Being a musical it’s quite important that the music is catchy, the choice of songs are pretty uninspired, usually chosen because the chorus is loosely describing the emotions (a particularly shoehorned choice is The White Stripe’s Seven Nation Army when Robert is surrounded by a host of potential wives that aren’t Ella). Our lead is Camila Cabello’s acting debut, the performance is inoffensive but as a musician with her fair share of hits you’d image her singing to be at least decent, but bizarrely she is likely the worst of the cast, almost seeming like they chose some of the worst recordings rather than the perfected ones. That being said, Idina Menzel is entertaining as the stepmother and has no problem belting out Madonna’s Material Girl becoming one of the only redeeming aspects of the film.
Much of the film is attempting to a sort of cheeky fun to very little success, the only scene that actually hits like it’s supposed to is Brosnan attempting to serenade his wife but everyone (including Queen Beatrice herself) are cringing at his singing voice, potentially a jab at Brosnan’s previous musical outings like Mama Mia! (2008). Often the jokes just come across with a certain amount of snide and accidental cringe that completely misses the mark.
Outside of this there is a commendable note of Ella trying to follow her dreams to become a dressmaker, and everyone telling her that she can’t, and works best at the ball when she decides to follow another queen passing through the town instead of staying with Robert, but unfortunately the plot doesn’t really go anyway and by the end just feels like it’s trying to pander to its audience.