What Critics are Saying About 'Cinderella'

Saturday September 4, 2021
Originally published on September 2, 2021

Nicholas Galitzine and Camila Cabello in a promotional photo for "Cinderella"
Nicholas Galitzine and Camila Cabello in a promotional photo for "Cinderella"  (Source:Amazon Studios)

Do we need another "Cinderella?" It's only been 5 years since Kenneth Branagh directed the live-action Disney film with Lily James and Cate Blanchett. And this past summer Andrew Lloyd Webber produced and co-wrote a new stage version that's currently a hit in London with a book by Emerald Fennell, the recent Oscar-winning screenwriter for the dark comedy "Promising Young Woman."

No doubt its film musical version will be in the offing in the future. In the meantime, this week brings another big screen musical version of the classic Charles Perrault's fairytale hitting the big screen and Amazon Prime Video this Friday. The new film, directed by Kay Cannon (who wrote and produced the "Pitch Perfect" movies), takes a different approach: Cinderella is a careerist with little interest in the doting Prince. It also takes a different approach musically by not offering a score by a single composer or team, but a mix of old and new pop songs in the manner of "Moulin Rouge."

Its press release says, "'Cinderella' is a musically-driven bold new take on the traditional story you grew up with. Our heroine (Camila Cabello) is an ambitious young woman, whose dreams are bigger than the world will allow, but with the help of her Fab G (Billy Porter), she is able to persevere and make her dreams come true."

Cabello is current tabloid fodder for her ongoing romance with pop star Shawn Mendes. Porter is in the running for his second Emmy award later this month for his performance on the final season of FX's "Pose."

Also featured are Idina Menzel, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver, Missie Elliot, Nicholas Galitzine, and James Corden, who also co-produced and came up with the idea of this new version of the classic, one that would be more sensitive to 21st century views.



Watch the trailer to "Cinderella"

In Variety, Courtney Howard wrote: "This latest retelling of the Charles Perrault classic offers a feminist-friendly update as its titular heroine dreams of a career, not a man, to whisk her away. While Cannon's inspired creative approach and jukebox musical style all point to an elegant and empowering redesign of this most familiar of garments, her execution puts quite a few tears in the fabric...

"Lavish musical set-pieces, this film's bread and butter, fail to immerse or transport audiences as intended. Though designed to conjure energy and bewitching wonderment in their design, there's a pervasive lack of aesthetic intrigue and individual identity. These numbers are exhausting, not enthralling... 

"Cabello is a magnetic screen presence who demonstrates a natural sense of comedic timing, infusing her character with vulnerability, compassion and effervescence. She and ((Nicholas} Galitzine (as the Prince) share a sweet, chaste chemistry. But it's Porter who steals the show. He does not disappoint....

"And while it's a noble effort from a capable director, this glass slipper proves frustratingly ill-fitting."

In the Hollywood Reporter, Lovia Gyarkye was even more dismissive. "'Cinderella' suffers from a host of problems, but its real curse is terrible timing. If this most recent reboot, with its heavy-handed feminist messaging, had been released decades ago, it might have stood a chance at being subversive...

"As promising as that premise sounds,'Cinderella' buckles under the weight of its intentions, and not even its formidable cast — Menzel, Billy Porter, Minnie Driver and Pierce Brosnan — can save it. It lacks magic and elegance, the magnetic qualities that made the 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein reboot, for example, irresistible...

"As a big-budget film with a star-studded cast, Cinderella meets the relatively low bar set by most contemporary reboots, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. The classic fairy tale and its straightforward but powerful lessons in self-confidence, perseverance and the power of imagination provide an alluring foundation for ambitious and visually stunning storytelling. It's sad that, watching this version, you wouldn't be able to tell."

In the British newspaper The Independent, Clarisse Loughrey gave the film two out of four stars. "In the end, all that differentiates this Cinderella from her predecessors is a voracious appetite for capitalism. While her evil stepmother (Idina Menzel) frets about finding a prosperous match for her daughters — here, she's more of a Mrs Bennet-type than anything outrightly villainous — Cinderella works away in the basement, tossing different coloured tulles on top of each other and calling them dresses. And when the kingdom's handsome, wayward prince (Nicholas Galitzine) falls madly in love with her and stages a ball in order to win her hand, poor Cinderella must choose between work and love. It's a centuries-old fairytale restructured to have the same plot as your average Hallmark Christmas film...

"The idea to cast Billy Porter as Fab G, a genderless fairy godparent? Wonderful, if the actor's role actually extended beyond pumping up Cinderella with a few "Yasss, future Queen, yasss!" slogans. Cabello herself is perfectly capable of delivering the relatable, upbeat princess routine — and has a sweet, poppy voice to match — but Cannon's film doesn't really know what to do with a pop star whose public image consists of little more than a few catchy singles and an obsession over her dating life...

"Corden, of course, delivers his usual shtick as one of Cinderella's rodent companions, who all have inexplicably oversized, misshapen heads here. In fact, the only actors who don't seem content to settle into autopilot are the film's own King and Queen, Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver — the former sporting some magnificent musketeer whiskers. They're detached from the calculated posturing that surrounds them, just two famous people enjoying themselves in silly costumes."

Billy Porter in "Cinderella"  (Source: Amazon)

In Vulture, Jackson McHenry expressed his reservations. "The overarching tone of this new version of 'Cinderella' is self-congratulation. The movie, not to be confused with the recent live-action Disney's 'Cinderella' or the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, takes it upon itself to reinvent the classic not-so-feminist tale of wish fulfillment for 2021 with grating results...

"On top of all this, 'Cinderella' is a musical, primarily a jukebox of the Moulin Rouge! variety, though the song choices are less than inspired... The whole project is hermetically sealed, predictable from the moment Cabello tries to play Ella as Beauty and the Beast's Belle as if she is attempting a TikTok challenge. A musical, theoretically, could reveal something under the surface, whatever thoughts her character isn't able to articulate in dialogue. But there's nothing under the surface here, just a girl trying to sell you a dress."

On the plus side, Caroline Siede writing in the A/V Club began with a warning before finding favor with the film. "Writer/director Kay Cannon's new jukebox-infused take on 'Cinderella' won't be a glass shoe that fits everyone. Those whose stomachs turn at the mere thought of Cinderella (pop star Camila Cabello) and her prince (Nicholas Galitzine) dueting to an Ed Sheeran song should stay far, far away from this PG-rated comedic pop confection aimed squarely at preteens. But for those who've attended a 'Greatest Showman' singalong or fallen down a rabbit hole of Glee covers on YouTube, there's plenty of fun to be had in its goofily self-aware retelling of the age-old fairy tale. Cannon combines the infectious musical spirit of her Pitch Perfect screenplays with the deadpan comedic sensibility she brought to the teen half of her directorial debut,'Blockers,' resulting in a movie musical that's decidedly better than its disastrous trailer suggested."

With a three-out-of-five star review, Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian also mentioned the film's disastrous trailer. "This musical 'Cinderella's' stodgy online trailer fluffed the snark glands of social media, with its warbly American Idol-style cover versions and the presence of producer-actor James Corden in a comedy mouse-turned-footman supporting role. There may even have been some unkind overexcitement at the thought of a new Cats-level debacle. But no. Actually, writer-director Kay Cannon's new Cinderella isn't bad, and Camila Cabello makes a rather personable lead, carrying off some of the movie's generous helping of funny lines."

At IndieWire, Kristen Lopez also enjoyed the film, noting how difficult it is to bring something original to this oft-told tale. "So with the deck quite literally stacked against the film, it's remarkable just how effervescent and charming Kay Cannon's 'Cinderella' actually is...

Cannon, who directed the raunchy teen comedy 'Blockers' back in 2018, understands that there's little that can actually be done to set the story apart from its predecessors, and thus decides to intensify the fun of it all. The addition of music is also nothing unique to Cinderella tales, especially for those who grew up with either of the three Rogers and Hammerstein versions, but the choice to turn this oft-portrayed fairy tale into a jukebox musical is the smartest element of "Cinderella."...

"Still, Cannon's take on 'Cinderella' looks to be this year's "Greatest Showman," where the flaws in the narrative are nothing in comparison to the vibrancy and energy on display with each and every musical number, worth dancing for, maybe even in a pair of glass slippers."