zotwot’s review published on Letterboxd:
"She's beautiful. She's witty. She's fearless. I mean, holy hell, did you see the way she talked to my father"
This latest adaption of the classic fairy tale is an attempt to make a modern, more inclusive version of Cinderella. It's certainly reasonably successful at being inclusive in terms of casting what with Camilla Cabello in the lead, Billy Porter as the "fabulous" godmother and the ensemble cast being full of people of colour and the Prince's best friend being played by trans actor Jenet Le Lacheur.
The story of the film attempts to be similarly inclusive and modern. This version of Cinderella is largely the one we know but she has dreams of setting up a designer clothes business. The dress she wears at the ball is one of her own design made reality by the godmother and she chooses not to marry the prince after receiving a job offer to make clothes for a visiting royal. Meanwhile in the background the Prince's sister continually spouts sensible ideas about running the kingdom and the Queen despairs at the King's old-fashioned ways.
It's all unfortunately a bit clumsy. I don't think there's a lot wrong with the basic idea and I suspect for a teen/pre-teen female audience it will probably be well liked. I found it strange that they felt the need to say that the kingdom is old-fashioned and no-one can imagine a woman running a business when it didn't feel necessary at all. The plot also falls apart somewhat by the end when everyone in the entire world seems to forget about their old sexist ways and suddenly become reasonable people once again.
The film is a jukebox musical which seems to here mean that they shove any pop or rock song they could think of into the film. Everything from Queen's 'Somebody to Love' to Madonna's 'Material Girl' to Ed Sheeran's 'Perfect' and Nico and Vinz's 'Am I Wrong?' is thrown into the film. There's absolutely no cohesion at all here with the music and I felt like it would have been better if they'd just stuck with an era. The performances are mixed, largely dependent on which actor is singing them. The highlight of the film is the original song 'Million to One' by Cabello herself but it does feel like they were so pleased with they felt the need to reprise it every five minutes.
Most screen versions of the Cinderella seem to suffer from the same problem, and that's the fact that the fairy tale has a very simple plot that doesn't actually take very long. Though this film makes a few changes actually for the first three quarters it's still pretty much your classic Cinderella story. Inevitably there's an attempt to fill time, largely by putting in unnecessary asides from the supporting cast which don't add a lot. Because so many of the songs feel utterly unconnected to the fairy tale there are also quite a few scenes where the painfully have to set up some dialogue to make the lyrics of a classic pop song make some sense in this context.
The cast are a mixed bag. Camilla Cabello is great when she is singing and dancing but I was less convinced by her acting. Nicholas Galitzine is pretty underwhelming as Prince Robert, not bad as such just lacking any charisma. Idina Menzel is excellent as you would expect, Billy Porter is great in his brief appearance and Minnie Driver is good as the Queen. I wasn't convinced at all by Pierce Brosnan as the King, though I was bemused by the fact they played on the fact that the actor is renowned for his dodgy singing in Mamma Mia.
There's also a unexpected plethora of British comedians. Doc Brown turns up utilising his rapping skills, Rob Beckett inexplicably appears as a unwanted suitor for Cinderella and Romesh Ranganathan and James Acaster appear as mice who are turned into human footmen. The third footman is played by James Corden. Now I have more of a tolerance for Corden than many but if I despised him I couldn't say he ruined the film for me as his role is far more minor than many viewers seem to be pointing out.
Unfortunately none of the British comedians, nor indeed anyone else, is given the chance to be particularly funny. There are plenty of moments which are clearly intended to be jokes but other than maybe two, they are incredibly flat. It really feels like the film is trying to be fun but it just isn't.
In fact, that last sentiment generally sums up my feelings on this film. The basic concept could work and the film is certainly trying hard with a cast of respected names but it's humour doesn't land, it's musical numbers are strangely eclectic and not always performed very well and it's attempt to be a modern take on the classic fairy tale feels pretty clumsy.