A lowly orphan tries to break free of her social and economic limitations in Amazon Prime's delightfully modern, musical version of Cinderella.
Dan Slevin: There's something delightfully modern about the new version of Cinderella that's streaming on Amazon Prime. It hasn't been updated in the sense that it's set in the modern world - it's still castles and villages and balls and glass slippers and talking mice - but it does have a refreshingly modern sensibility, as witnessed by the energetic Billy Porter as the Fabulous Godmother we just heard from.
It's zippy, anachronistic and colourful and will probably be fine family entertainment on a Friday night. Just don't look or listen too closely because scrutiny is something that it will not be up to.
Ella is played by Cuban-American pop star Camila Cabello, by far the best thing in the film and someone who I hope cinema audiences will see much more of. She wrote one of the songs, too, one of the best. In fact, even though most of the music in this new Cinderella is repurposed pop hits from the last four decades the two best songs are new: Cabello's ballad 'Million to One' and the wicked stepmother Idina Menzel's 'Dream Girl'.
Much more interesting than a tired and obvious retread of Madonna's 'Material Girl'.
You don't need me to tell you the story, do you? It's Cinderella.
I will let you know the differences that give this version that modern sensibility and a message you'll be pleased to share with your kids: the Fairy Godmother is now a Fabulous Godmother played by a loud gay black man in a dress. Ella doesn't dream of marrying a Prince, she wants to open a dress shop and design clothes. Robert, the handsome Prince (played by Nicholas Galitzine), is kind of meh about becoming a King and would rather do his own thing. His sister Gwen (Tallulah Greive) knows she would make a much better ruler and keeps making helpful suggestions about reducing poverty and introducing sustainable energy. King Rowan, played by Pierce Brosnan with excellent hair, is so focused on his royal legacy he can't see his family legacy in front of him.
And Menzel as the wicked stepmother is given a softening back story that really doesn't work because she has been so mean to Ella in the first half of the film she actually does deserve some kind of comeuppance. But this film doesn't do that - everyone gets a happy ending and a huge Mamma Mia-like dance party at the end.
If you enjoy the colourful anachronism of that pseudo-historical romance Bridgerton, you'll have a feast here. The costumes are by the same designer, Ellen Mirojnick, and my eyes were just hurting by the end, but I get that some people love this stuff.
The film is written and directed by Kay Cannon who is best known for the Pitch Perfect trilogy, and she also contributed vocal arrangements for many of the tunes.
Where this Cinderella really fell down for me were the jokes. I'm sorry but three half-jokes don't add up to one good one, and there are a lot of limp lines that really don't land, no matter how much energy goes into selling them.
Maybe one reason why it feels so disjointed is that it was half shot before Covid and then finished in a hurry under Covid compliance restrictions. So much of the production seems rushed - the makeup on the boys is shoddy and the sets look like someone has just raided the Pinewood storage facility but if you concentrate on Ms Cabello as Cinderella rather than all of that you'll have a perfectly decent time.
Cinderella is rated PG and is streaming now on Amazon Prime.