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"CINDERELLA"
(2021) (Camilla Cabello, Nicholas Galitzine) (PG)


Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

QUICK TAKE:
Musical: Having been subjugated into servitude by her stepmother, a headstrong young woman gets a second chance at life when she meets a Prince whose father is demanding that he find a bride.
PLOT:

Ella (CAMILA CABELLO) is a young and headstrong woman who dreams of opening a dress shop. Unfortunately, in the kingdom where she lives, no woman owns a business. To make matters worse, with her father no longer around, Ella's stepmother, Vivian (IDINA MENZEL), makes her serve her and her two daughters, Malvolia (MADDIE BAILLIQ) and Narissa (CHARLOTTE SPENCER) who refer to her as Cinderella, what with Ella being forced to live in the basement.

With her only friends being three mice, James (voice of JAMES CORDEN), John (voice of JAMES ACASTER), and Romesh (voice of ROMESH RANGANATHAN), Ella keeps designing and making dresses while Vivian hopes that some rich man, such as Thomas Cecil (ROB BECKETT), might take one of her daughters off her hands.

Meanwhile, Prince Robert (NICHOLAS GALITZINE) -- while having a close relationship with his mother, Queen Beatrice (MINNIE DRIVER), and sister, Princess Gwen (TALLULAH GREIVE) -- must contend with his father, King Rowan (PIERCE BROSNAN), demanding that he act more kingly and find himself a woman to marry and be his queen.

He doesn't think much of loveless arranged marriages, and thus is smitten with Ella when he sees her from a distance and notes her independent nature. Dressing down like a commoner so that he can't be recognized, he finds Ella on the street and invites her to the ball that his father is throwing for him in hopes of him finding a bride there.

When Vivian refuses to allow Ella to attend, she gets a lucky break when a recently transformed butterfly turns into her Fabulous Godmother (BILLY PORTER) and casts a spell that will allow her to attend with only Prince Robert being able to recognize her.

But the spell is only good until midnight when Ella will return to her old self and the three mice who've been turned into her human assistants will return to rodent form. With time running out, Ella and Prince Robert must decide what's right for themselves.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

I have no idea what story has been adapted the most times from its original version, but if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Cinderella or, more accurately, the Greek story of Rhodopis that first hit listeners' ears sometime in the rough era around Christ's birth.

Since then, it's been told and retold in countless shapes and forms, ranging from written works to opera and ballet, musicals, films, and TV (the latter two in both live-action and animated form). Thus, when I heard a new version of the tale was debuting on Amazon Prime Video, I must admit I rolled my eyes a bit.

That said, I'm glad I didn't write it off and skip the opportunity to see it. And that's because it's a version that can best be described as having been "Moulin Rouged" or, a bit less accurately but in the same format ballpark, "Glee-ed." Like that film and TV show, this version features covers of popular songs (and a few new ones to boot) that have been reconfigured to help tell the all-too-familiar tale.

And you know you're not in Uncle Walt's neighborhood of Cinderella when this offering begins with the folks of the kingdom getting down in song and dance style to Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation." We then meet our title character (singer-songwriter Camila Cabello making her feature film debut in an absolutely winning fashion) who, natch, lives down in the basement and is forced to work as the de facto servant to her stepmom, Vivian (Broadway star Adele Dazeem, a.k.a. Idina Menzel), and her two self-absorbed daughters (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer).

But this Cinderella has big dreams (cue her singing "You're gonna know my name" in the award-bait song "Million To One"), namely that of opening a dress shop and selling outfits she's designed and produced.

Of course, only her mice friends (voiced by James Acaster, James Corden, and Romesh Ranganathan who naturally later show up as her human footmen) know of her secret dreams. That is, at least initially, as Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) soon learns of them upon meeting her while in disguise.

While he has an understanding mom in Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver), his "it's my way or the royal highway" father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan), demands that his young adult son stop his lazy, partying ways and act more kingly, namely in finding a bride to accompany him when he's handed the keys to the kingdom. But Robert isn't crazy about the thought of an arranged marriage (as he sings in the cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love"), and thus his dad threatens to name Robert's progressive but never allowed to be heard or participate sister, Gwen (Tallulah Greive), as his successor.

Accordingly, Robert agrees to attend a bride-enticing ball his father is throwing, but only if he can convince Ella to attend, something that doesn't seem likely until he makes note of the design-hungry rich who will be there as potential customers of her wares. But when her stepmother forbids her from attending and ruins her dress, it's up to a certain Fairy Godmother (Billy Porter, delightfully hamming it up) to make some magic happen (while belting out "Shining Star") and it's not long before we're hearing a ball mash-up of "Whatta Man" and "Seven Nation Army" (which comes off as the most Baz Luhrmann moment of the nearly two-hour-long film).

From there, well, it's no surprise how things play out, namely because we've seen it happen over and over -- did I say over -- again and again. Which also holds true for the girl power message, although there's nothing wrong with repeating that one until it gets through certain thick skulls in society. And while the film has its magical moments of sheer exuberance, writer/director Kay Cannon doesn't manage to maintain that level of fun from start to finish, with the ending not matching moments that precede it.

All of that said, it's still a fun and enjoyable diversion, even if it feels as calculated as figuring out which songs go where to help tell the uber-familiar tale. While I'm certainly far from the target audience, I enjoyed this retelling of "Cinderella" and thus rate the film a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed August 30, 2021 / Posted September 3, 2021


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