James Corden’s tackle the not-so-feminist story joins a relentless advance of pandemic film musicals.
Picture: Kerry Brown/Amazon Studios

As soon as upon a time, at midnight, algorithmic coronary heart of Hollywood, James Corden had the thought to make one other Cinderella film. After which, years later, after a pandemic pressured the film onto Amazon Prime Video, his want got here true: Hark, fellow peasants, we now have a brand new Cinderella film — solely this time, she’s a girlboss, and likewise James Corden is in it as a mouse. Allow us to thank our overlords for this sort present to the plenty.

The overarching tone of this new model of Cinderella is self-congratulation. The film, to not be confused with the current live-action Disney Cinderella or the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, takes it upon itself to reinvent the traditional not-so-feminist story of want success for 2021 with grating outcomes. So far as I can inform, the germ of the pitch really did come from Corden himself however was expanded right into a screenplay by Kay Cannon, who additionally directs. She pulled off the pleasantly enjoyable studio comedy Blockers (and, fittingly, wrote the Pitch Excellents and tried to make Netflix’s Girlboss sequence work), however right here appears overwhelmed by a plot made up totally of studio notes.

On this model, Camila Cabello’s Ella goals of opening her personal gown store as an alternative of simply marrying a prince, whereas the prince is the one who desires love. Plus, he has an aggressively barretted sister who actually ought to rule the dominion. Plus, Billy Porter exhibits up as a gender-bent model of a fairy godmother known as “Fab G.” The outcomes really feel so schematically unobjectionable they’re lifeless. After reworking her right into a ball robe, Fab G tells Ella, “Yass, future queen, yass,” in a clip that’s already been roundly mocked online. However what occurs later is doubtlessly worse: As soon as the mice are remodeled, the film tries some feeble traces about how Ella assumed they had been ladies (as a result of to her, mice are feminine and rats are males), and Fab G ends the scene with a “moving right along.” Not a joke a lot as a obscure gesture at humor, and about par for many of the different dialogue.

On prime of all this, Cinderella is a musical, primarily a jukebox of the Moulin Rouge! selection, although the track selections are lower than impressed. We begin off with the villagers all singing “Rhythm Nation” to point, nicely, boring routines. Later, we hear the prince (an actor named Nicholas Galitzine, who I assumed was Shawn Mendes earlier than questioning whether or not I ever actually knew what Shawn Mendes seems to be like) sing “Somebody to Love” about his quest to … it pains me an excessive amount of to finish that sentence. There are two new songs: one for Camila Cabello in regards to the odds of her dream coming true being “Million to One,” and one for Idina Menzel’s depraved stepmother that serves to humanize her, as a result of it’s about the way it sucks to be a girl.

Menzel’s stepmother is as shut because the film will get to having a villain, although it makes an attempt battle with as a lot enthusiasm because it goals for jokes. She threatens to marry off Ella as an alternative of letting her go to the ball, as a result of she believes that girls are solely worthwhile as objects. She explains her perspective with a efficiency of “Material Girl” that’s apparent however not less than enjoyable in that it takes benefit of Menzel’s pure hauteur. The film rapidly forgives the stepmother, nonetheless, in the best way it steamrolls over just about all the opposite character dynamics, together with a short trace of marital squabbles between the king (Pierce Brosnan, who seems to be unaware that this isn’t simply one other Mamma Mia!) and queen (Minnie Driver, for whom one all the time desires higher). In Cinderella, no one is ever within the fallacious, particularly the ladies, as a result of ladies are good and they’re succesful and they need to be allowed to take part in capitalism too, darn it.

Cinderella arrives amid a glut of film musicals which have clustered across the second half of 2021, seemingly all encouraging audiences to get pleasure from some spectacle because the pandemic drags ever onward. There was Within the Heights, promising a summer season of jubilation that didn’t actually occur (and stumbling by itself guarantees of illustration), the surreal high-art nervousness of Annette, and now acid-sherbet-colored Cinderella, with different films advancing towards us in a refrain line: Pricey Evan Hansen, Everyone’s Speaking About Jamie, Tick, Tick … Increase!, and eventually, the much-delayed West Aspect Story. That assortment encompasses a complete vary of genres, and I’m completely happy to see so many variations within the type get made. However there’s one thing about their relentless advance that smooths them collectively. Why are all these individuals singing at us by means of the display screen? Is it for a way of group? For the spectacle? Merely a quirk of the pandemic colliding with the aftershocks of the success of Hamilton, Disney’s live-action remakes, and The Biggest Showman?

Cinderella is not going to reply that query, however it offers a form of anti-insight: {that a} musical will make no sense if there’s no cause for these characters to sing in any respect. The entire challenge is hermetically sealed, predictable from the second Cabello tries to play Ella as Magnificence and the Beast’s Belle as if she is trying a TikTok problem. A musical, theoretically, might reveal one thing underneath the floor, no matter ideas her character isn’t in a position to articulate in dialogue. However there’s nothing underneath the floor right here, only a lady making an attempt to promote you a gown.

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