Cinderella REVIEW – A Ball of Fun

Kay Cannon's film isn't the definitive version of Cinderella, but it sure is entertaining.


Let me begin with a short PSA. I’m sure most of you have seen moving images of James Corden dressed as a mouse and thrusting his hips wildly in traffic, a demonstration which was part of this ‘Crosswalk the Musical’ series on his talk show. The rest of the cast of Cinderella were there too, though seemingly more restrained – at least I hope since the full video has yet to be aired. This might put you off the film, especially if you feel more of such antics await.

Yes, Corden plays a mouse in the film, and while his performance feels a bit much at times, the camp portrayal does fit with the film’s tone and vibe. So, please don’t let this stop you from all the fun this movie has to offer.

Kay Cannon’s very musical Cinderella has pop star Camila Cabello in the titular role, with Idina Menzel as her stepmother Vivian and Billy Porter plays her fairy godmother (Fab G to be specific). In comparison to Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 Cinderella, which follows the original version of the tale quite closely, Cannon’s Cinderella is a different beast. There is a keen focus on agency, for Ella as well as Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) – for she isn’t just a woman for marrying, and he isn’t just destined to inherit a kingdom he doesn’t want.

Cabello has consistently spoken about the feminist tones in the film, that a woman can have it all and shouldn’t be forced to compromise or held to the standards of those who came before. This direction allows for a more effective characterisation of the villainous stepmother, where her resentment and treatment of Ella is due to the failures in her own life.

Much like what Cate Blanchett did with her role as the stepmother, Menzel tempers her performance with the same nuance. She also brings her A game with her performances – I especially enjoyed her rendition of “Material Girl” by Madonna.

The film has remixed versions of other popular songs, either songs combined for a ensemble number – Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” in a medley with Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” – or individual cast members covering a different version of these songs, like Cabello and Galitzine’s cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”. If you aren’t a fan of such music, then you wouldn’t really enjoy the film. For me, because these are songs that I am familiar with, it was such fun to groove along at home – it’s on Amazon Prime so you can even dance about with no judgement.

Cabello makes a great protagonist – she’s funny and goofy, and just so relatable. She’s not really acting so much as playing herself, but she does it with such charisma that it doesn’t really matter. The only film I know Galitzine from is the reboot of The Craft, but he was memorable and has enough charm to be a credible romantic partner.

In comparison to some of the other Cinderella movies, like Ever After with Drew Barrymore and the 2015 film, the romantic chemistry here isn’t as palpable as these other ones. Ella and Robert do banter frequently, but it feels more like friendly energy. The only exception is their performance of “Perfect”, which was the most strikingly beautiful part of the movie. The rotating camerawork, the framing of the two singing to each other, the dancing – truly chef’s kiss.

I like how the conventional elements of the narrative were all given something new. The three mice, played by Corden, James Acaster and Romesh Ranganathan, are humourous in CGI-form, as well as when they transform into footmen for Ella’s carriage. Porter is incredible as Fab G, and despite only being in one scene, his presence really gave a boost to the proceedings.

Cinderella isn’t a perfect film, and definitely could use some trimming when it came to the king (Pierce Brosnan) and queen’s (Minnie Driver) marital problems subplot. The king’s stubborn adherence to the legacy of a male heir and his dynamic with the queen all feels like a plot rehash of Coming 2 America. These obstacles are so easily resolved, with Robert playing no part in his own liberation from his royal obligations.

I understand the matriarchal spaces the film is trying to set up, which is why the prince has a mother and a sister here, and none in the original tale. However, much like Avengers: Endgame female superhero moment in the final battle, it feels more contrived than earned.

While Cannon’s Cinderella isn’t my favourite iteration of the tale, mainly because it sacrifices the heart of the story for more theatricality, it’s still a pretty fun time.

Review screener provided.

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Musical movies aren't everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoy watching characters sing about their feelings, with covers and mash-ups of popular songs, then Kay Cannon's Cinderella might just be your drink of choice.