I am not sure the world was clamoring for yet another go-round with the well-worn legend of Cinderella, but that didn’t stop producer James Corden, who pitched Sony on the idea of a new-age take, keeping the surroundings and era intact but turning the future princess into a self-made entrepreneur more concerned with a career than sitting around waiting for her prince to come along. The happily-ever-after here puts the handsome savior clearly in second position for a young woman whose sense of self-worth revolves more around her own unique talents than as an object of desire for a lovelorn guy with power and a royal title.
There have been many iterations from Disney’s animated and live-action versions: all the productions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical from Julie Andrews to Brandy and Whitney Houston, the recent Broadway reboot, and even a 1960 male twist on the tale with Jerry Lewis’ Cinderfella. But Corden convinced the studio (which since sold off the finished film to Amazon for a streaming debut Friday) that there was room for one more, a version that would speak more directly to the young girls out there living in a markedly different time for women, and who might like a retelling that reflects a world where females are no longer sitting around looking for Mr. Right, but rather who take matters into their own hands and maybe get the guy thrown in as a bonus prize.
Cuban-American pop star Camila Cabello makes her acting debut with considerable style and comedic chops as Ella, the put upon young woman relegated to dirty work for her rather dismissive stepmother Vivian (a perfectly cast Idina Menzel) and stepsisters Malvolia (Maddie Baillo) and Nerissa (Charlotte Spencer). Even this aspect has been softened from the constant bickering and mean-spirited attitude toward Ella, into a couple of girls who have their own insecurities to deal with, and a stepmother, while horribly cruel to Ella in one scene, is actually presented as a concerned, twice-divorced single mother hoping for the best for her kids, and even eventually that includes Cinderella herself — even if the emphasis is wrongly placed by her for material wealth and belongings (a cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl” is confirmation of that).
Of course, like every other version, the big moment comes with the kingdom’s ball, and this is no different. However the desired Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is a bit of an airhead. His father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan), is kind of clueless in his own way, while mother Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver) comes off as far wiser and more understanding. There’s also a sibling for Robert, a sister who looms largely in the background for most of the story but comes in handy towards the end.
Ella, a promising fashion maven and dress designer, is more than prepared to actually go to the ball when an invite comes her way, but of course is thwarted by her stepmother. Cue Billy Porter to the rescue as a rebooted Fairy Godmother, now known as Fabulous Godmother, or Fab G. He is dazzling in design and song, belting out Earth Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star” in all its glory and joining Cabello in a terrific musical sequence as she is transformed to hit the road to the palace. That scene, as always, is the highlight of most productions, and it is here as well thinks to Porter and the talented Cabello. By the way, nearly all the musical numbers are covers of well-known pop songs, save for an original by Cabello called “Million to One,” as well as Menzel’s “Dream Girl.” The rest of the score includes the likes of “Rhythm Nation” and “Let’s Get Loud,” etc. Ashley Wallen’s sprightly choreography adds much to the mix, particularly with the chorus line at the ball.
It is interesting to see this new interpretation at this time, especially considering recent events in the Royal Family with Harry and Meagan and a rethinking of priorities in that regard. This Cinderella’s timing seems right on the money, and is a harmless confection (nothing more, nothing less) for the target audience and certainly Cabello fans, who get to see this charming performer branch out into new challenges, and meet them head on.
Corden produced with Shannon McIntosh, Leo Pearlman and Jonathan Kadin, and he also gets a supporting role as one of Cinderella’s helpful mice who turn human in order to get her to the ball and back by midnight. It has all been directed and written with a splash of color and fun by Kay Cannon, who wrote the Pitch Perfect movies and made her directorial debut on the raunchy Blockers.
Check out my video review above with scenes from the film. Do you plan to see Cinderella? Let us know what you think.
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