Fun but flawed ‘Cinderella’ brings modern twists to classic fairytale

ELLEN FUTTERMAN, Editor-in-Chief

Editors Note: This review originally appeared in the Jewish Light’s Family Newsletter. To sign up for more family-related stories please go to https://more.stljewishlight.org/newsletters


Watching the latest iteration of “Cinderella” now streaming on Amazon Prime, I got to thinking of my favorite version of the well-worn fairytale: the 1965 made-for-TV film starring Lesley Anne Warren as the title character, Celeste Holm as the Fairy Godmother and Jo Van Fleet as the wicked stepmother.

I was 9 years old at the time, which pretty much is the perfect age to believe a beautiful, orphaned urchin can change into a fairy princess with the flick of a magic wand and find true love and happiness with her Prince Charming.

This happens all the time, doesn’t it?

Well, it happens, kind of, in the “modernized” 2021 version, which is equal parts entertaining and exasperating, mostly because of the decision to update the story with a feminist slant but set it in “olden” times of horse-drawn carriages and constricting corsets. Given the modern-day vernacular spoken by the characters and pop hits sprinkled throughout, it seems as if it would have made more sense for writer-director Kay Cannon (writer of “Pitch Perfect” films) to set the entire production in the 21st century rather than 200 years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT


Nevertheless, “Cinderella” (2021) offers plenty to enjoy, thanks to a winsome, talented cast and lots of snappy, high-octane tunes that help move the story along. Among the latter are Madonna’s “Material Girl” (think about it, doesn’t that describe the wicked stepmother to a T?), Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star,” which heralds the entrance of a beautiful monarch butterfly as it transforms into the spectacular Billy Porter.

Porter plays Fab G (short for Fabulous Godmother), who shows up soon after Wicked Stepmother (Idina Menzel) throws black liquid on the impeccable gown Cinderella (Camilla Cabelo) created to wear to the palace ball.

It seems ultra-independent Cinderella has aspirations of becoming a dress designer with her own fashion house — Dresses by Ella — though in the universe she inhabits, women are barred from owning a business.

Enter Fab G, who brings to life Cinderella’s greatest dress design, replete with her in it, and changes three CGI talking mice into James Corden and two other footmen. No one can command a scene like Porter, and he doesn’t disappoint here, though his screen time is woefully short.

Other highpoints: the Prince, known here as Prince Robert, actually has a real name as well as a personality, and his sister, Princess Gwen, in another nod to girl power, demurely exhibits the smarts and heart to more justly rule a kingdom than her brother or father, the King (Pierce Brosnan).

As parents, the King and Queen (Minnie Driver) aren’t given much more to do than be a grump and a frump; their roles are inconsequential, as are those of the obligatory stepsisters.

As jukebox musicals go, “Cinderella” offers its fair share of spunky fun. As Cinderella stories go, this Amazon version is no standout but will likely delight today’s 9-year-olds and their slightly older siblings. Parents, too, might appreciate how this updated tale still manages to convey a timeless message — though convoluted in its delivery— to persevere and follow your dreams no matter what, and to not be afraid of being different.

Sign up for Your Morning Light