Summary: A modern movie musical with a bold take on the classic fairy tale. Our ambitious heroine has big dreams and with the help of her fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.
There will be spoilers… you’ve been warned.
This review has been sitting in my drafts for a while, I wanted to post a video the same day I posted the review. But, alas, this was posted first lol.
The Cast. Sometimes. This is not all of them but only a few. I don’t think anyone is particularly bad but there are stand outs.
- Billy Porter as Fab G/Fabulous Godmother. So, he is a butterfly, who Ella saved when he was a caterpillar from a spider. So because she saved him, he came to her after transforming into a butterfly. I liked that he was a butterfly lol. I think it was clear to see that Billy Porter was excited to play this part. My friend even showed me a screenshot of him saying he was so excited to be playing the same role Whitney Houston played. I now want to hear him sing “Impossible”. But he was sweet, funny and had a kind spirit while he interacted with her. It sucks we didn’t get the chance to see him again at the end. He was the narrator but only at the beginning and the end. I would have liked to see more of him.
- Idina Menzel as Vivian. She is Ella’s stepmother and honestly, she wasn’t as bad as I expected her to be as the stepmother. She wanted her girls to be married, even Ella. She had her moments of not listening to Ella’s needs/wants but she’s never downright mean until she throws ink on Ella’s dress (we’ll get to that later) before the ball and when she tries to send Ella off with Mr. Thomas. I thought she could have been worse and Idina could play mean if that’s what they wanted. But I liked her fine. She was too good for the movie and she sounded amazing on that “Dream Girl” song and on the intimate parts of “Let’s Get Loud” at the end.
- Minnie Driver as Queen Beatrice. She is the Queen of the land and I liked her because not only was she funny, without seemingly like she’s trying too hard, I liked her character. I would have been interested in seeing her interact with her children more, especially her son since we kept being told they were close and that he was a momma’s boy. I liked her feisty moments in talking to Pierce Brosnan, who I think was overall fine as he always is but I couldn’t highlight him separately. But as I won’t make a separate point, I think they worked well together and the scene at the end when he comes to her window to woo her, I thought was super cute. I really liked her though, way too good for this.
Costumes. Ellen Mirojnick (Nanny McPhee, The Greatest Showman, Cinderella (1997) ) does the costumes for this movie and there are some outfits that I do like. I generally like what the stepmother wears, even though I was reminded of Cinderella (2015) a lot lol. I think there was maybe one thing Queen Beatrice wore that I liked. But I really loved the ball and how there were African and Indian inspired princess gowns. I also loved Queen Tatiana’s outfits. I really liked Fab G’s outfit, the color looked amazing on Billy Porter.
The only thing I really liked that Ella wore was this pink dress. I liked it in the trailer and I stated in my trailer reactions that I liked this quite a bit. I will talk about this more later, but the color is lovely on Camila and I wish we saw more of it.
Lastly, I liked Ella’s final dress. It’s very contemporary but considering how the movie was trying to be that, it works in that way I guess.
Music Choices/Singing. When I heard it was a jukebox musical, I was not impressed because sometimes they choose the weirdest songs for situations. But there are only a few times where I liked it. “Whatta Man” sung by the ladies at the ball was awesome, they kept the style mostly the same, with a bit of a “classical” sound with the cello addition. If you listen to the original song and then this one, you can tell it sounds the same with a bit of a change. I also liked “Shinning Star”, sung by Billy Porter. He probably had the best rendition of the existing songs. I think there are two original songs and I think “Million to One” has potential but I don’t like how it’s sung. “Dream Girl”, that Idina Menzel sings later, I really liked that song and I think Idina sings it beautifully, I also didn’t mind her daughters joining in as backup. However, I didn’t care as much when they added the other ladies. I also liked her part on “Let’s Get Loud”, as well as Minnie Driver’s start to open that song, she had a nice little riff. Also, the “Town Crier’s” parts were clearly inspired by Hamilton but I enjoyed those bits, not not written well but fine lol.
- Camila Cabello as Ella/Cinderella. While I don’t think Camila was super terrible, I don’t think she was great either. Anyone could have played this role honestly, and played it better because you could see her inexperience, it was pretty painful sometimes. There were a few times where I could see her getting a laugh (though I only chuckled twice and laughed twice and none of them dealt with her) but it wasn’t funny to me. She makes a lot of faces but… it was more awkward than funny to me. I actually did not like Ella that much either. She wasn’t all that smart lol and it was very rude of her to sit atop the King’s father’s statue just to see the changing of the guards. Then she was trying to be sassy in return and I just rolled my eyes. Also, you want to be a dressmaker… but why? She never says why. She keeps saying it in conjunction with making money never because it’s what she dreams of doing. It’s never because she wants to inspire other people or anything like that. I’m not saying that people can’t do things to make money but I think that’s a weird message for someone who sings the lyrics in “Million to One”. I feel like, if the goal was to own a dress shop so she can show that woman can be run their own business, make clothes and do more than just be wives… cool and she kind of alludes to that, when she sees all the “and sons…” businesses but it doesn’t seem as important as making money. Literally anytime she’s talking about her dressmaking, it’s always about money. Maybe she could have been a dreamer, making clothes, but then realizes her stepmother is serious about them marrying for convenience and not for love, that she tries to start selling her clothes to show her stepmother she doesn’t need a man to provide… My other problem is that she’s not that smart because she makes a dress and tries to take it with her when they go see the “changing of the guard” with her family but her stepmother doesn’t let her. She sneaks out later to sell it. Okay, we know the stepmother isn’t very supportive of trying to sell the clothes. But then, she comes back for the ball, wearing the dress and says she only wants to go to network…like girl… you were already told you can’t go into town to sell, what makes you think Vivian is going to let you go to the BALL to sell?? Weird. She also doesn’t really get the chance to do anything for herself. Trying to sell her first dress? Prince Robert buys it well over her asking price because he likes her, instead of her actually selling it. Can’t go to the ball/dress ruined? Fab G shows up… and the Prince saves her again lol. Yup.
- Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Robert. I don’t completely blame him but his character is so bland. He wasn’t interesting. He’s so bland that my friend forgot his name while she was watching it! He didn’t seem to have any aspirations, he says he wants to be King but doesn’t seem to want the responsibility that comes with it. It’s hard to gauge if he does this because he wants to please his father or if he’s just “I can finally be in charge and not be told what to do”, which makes sense considering how much he complained about being controlled. He even says “balls are so mannered” and he seems to want to rebel out of the traditions… we’ll get more on that later lol. Prince Robert agrees to the ball specifically so he can meet Ella, which is fine, other versions kind of throw that in there too, but he wants to meet her because “holy hell, did you see the way she talked to my father” but then he tells her she can’t have her business, that it’s frowned upon? Even though you talked about this to her already??? Not to mention, you LIKED her because she was “different?” lol I’m getting ahead of myself. But this character is so bland. He does have a personal change by the end but it’s so small that I don’t know if I even wanna call it an arc… it’s a speed bump.
- Side Note: He should have been named Prince Rowan and his father King Robert.
- Narissa (Charlotte Spencer) and Malvolia (Maddie Baillio). I didn’t dislike them, quite the opposite but they don’t really have characters. They’re not really mean to Ella, hardly ever. Narissa tells her she has dirt on her face and perhaps they don’t really stick up for Ella to their mother, but I can’t recall an instance where they’re actually mean. Narissa is described as self-absorbed… but we see her only really act like that twice and Malvolia is described as obnoxious, which shows itself more but even then, they’re just there. They don’t interact with Ella again after she tries to go to the ball with them. They could have been really funny and they could have also been secretly friends with Ella but was only “mean” in front of their mother. OR just oppose their mother in general. Something more of substance here!
- Prince Robert- What bothers me is that when Robert first sees Ella, she is RUDELY sitting atop the King’s father’s statue and he calls her out about it. Robert is gobsmacked because “omg, she’s talking back to his father”. He goes into the kingdom to meet her, which he does, he finds out about her wanting to be dressmaker and that she’s feisty and all this stuff… but when he meets her at the ball, he tells her that when they get married, she can’t run a shop and sell dresses, there’s rules for princesses… and I don’t understand why he would say that when at this point he KNOWS enough about her to know that’s not what she’s gonna want. Not to mention, he was taken with her because of her outspokenness, and you think that she’s just gonna go willingly into not being a girl boss? That was a huge script mistake for his character.
- Vivian- Is she supposed to be evil/mean or not? I don’t think she did anything that was in “evil” territory. She had a few “mean” moments but the most mean thing she did was throw ink on Ella’s dress. Then later she has a heart to heart with Ella and I’m like… am I supposed to like her or not?? First of all, if you’re doing your own laundry and teaching your daughters how to do that stuff, what’s the point of having “Cinderella” exist at all? Why show her making them tea? Vivian is weird lol. Like what do you want??? A better way of life as we basically get told throughout. My biggest issue with her is her “backstory”, after the ball, she goes to find Cinderella, sees the inked up dress and looks remorseful by the way, tells her about the ball and then has a whole moment where she tells Ella about how she used to play piano. She was self-taught and very good. She had the opportunity to go away to the finest school for music… and she did. The problem was that she “had the audacity to want more” after having a husband and two children. But my thing is, what’s the problem here? I thought she was going to say that her husband wouldn’t allow her to go because “how dare you have the audacity to want more when you already have it all AND you’re role as a woman is to be a wife and mother, that’s all”. But she went to the school! She said the husband was upset with her when she came back but they never said if her husband cheated or treated her badly or what. They’re trying to have her relate to Ella and show her why Vivian has been hard on her and why she doesn’t let her “pursue” her dream other than making her dresses, because she never tells Ella she can’t make the dresses, just that she can’t try to sell them lol. If Vivian said:
- I couldn’t go because of my responsibilities as a mother and a wife and my husband did not approve.
- I went to the school and my husband left me for not staying in my lane.
- I went to the school and realized that I was not as good as I thought I was.
Then it would have made more sense why she was so hard on Ella. She saw herself in her stepdaughter and hated that she chased after her dreams unabashedly whereas she couldn’t. That connects them in a better way. I was so disappointed with that payoff. I was like “what??” We don’t even know what happened to her first husband, did he die? Did he leave? Like did he get sick while she was away and she feels guilty?? Like?? Her payoff at the end during the last song is not earned by the way.
Music Choices/Singing. First and foremost, Camila Cabello’s voice does not fit in this film. It’s pretty noticeable. I don’t think the songs they chose that her voice style fits and I also don’t like her voice lol. I never really paid much attention and I’m not saying she can’t sing, but it’s not my cup of tea. She has a solo song “Million to One” that she wrote for this film and I really want to hear someone else sing it because it sounds like she is straining her voice, not to mention some of her diction is so weird, particularly on the words “if” and “one” in that song. She sings it twice so you can notice it. I noticed it in the trailer lol. I think compared to some of the others who clearly have had theatrical training, it doesn’t work. Not to mention, some of the sound work on the film is really strange. There are a few times where the sound mixing isn’t good and there’s a scene where Ella is singing with her future self and the harmonizing is terrible lol. As for the music, most of these songs have been put in other jukebox musicals and were performed better. This movie could have chosen other songs instead of these obvious ones to fill out their movie. Like, how dare you use “Somebody to Love” when Ella Enchanted (another retelling of Cinderella) did it first and better! I liked the song “Dream Girl”, but then they added in the other ladies of the kingdom, like Gwen for “carry it” and Beatrice for “marry it” and then the townswomen and I get what they were trying to do but we didn’t need them to join the song lol. Vivian could have sang it on her own and they could have panned over Beatrice and Gwen on those lyrics. Also, I already dislike the song “Am I Wrong” by Nico and Vinz and I rolled my eyes so hard when they started singing it AND Camila has this weird “Am I wrOoOng” riff and it’s so bad lol. The sound people were not on the ball here lol.
Storyline Choices. The fact that Billy Porter (Fab G) was only in ONE scene is egregious. What happened with Cecil; Vivian promised Ella to him and then Ella just ran off to meet with Queen Tatiana? No consequences? We didn’t really need the talking mice, let’s be honest. The part at the end where they help Ella escape, she could have done that herself. If Ella is a dressmaker, why didn’t she use the ink to make her dress super unique instead of having a Fairy Godperson come and save her? I think it’s interesting that she had a broach from her mother and she was just gonna put it on a dress and sell it off (cackles), why have that be mentioned at all? It’s also a super fugly broach. Ella and Vivian have a “heart to heart” at the end but not really lol. When she’s leaving the ball, she asks Robert to help her escape because of the crowd, but he literally leads her through where she could have gone herself. Like girl? Also, I’m still mad he told her that having her own business would be frowned upon but you’re going to be King and make the rules! Or you know she wants to be a dressmaker! Like, I can’t even lol.
Girl Power Overload. This may come off weird but..one of my biggest annoyances with this movie is hard how it “girl powers” us. Listen, I am a woman and I love girl power, when it’s not obnoxious. This movie was so literal in how it handles it, that I would scoff or roll my eyes. For example, the Prince has a younger sister, Gwen, who actively wants to rule. She is smart and tries to give her input but is always shut down, there’s even a line she says when she tries to sit at the table and is told she can’t, “you’re not going to let me have a seat at the table?” Then Cinderella herself, just gets on my nerves, “I choose me,” when the Prince proposes at the ball but then he plays a few chords on the piano of the song they sang at the ball, she pauses and then goes to kiss him. I was like “girl, you just said you choose you… leave!” lol. The best thing about this girl power, is the line Queen Tatiana says about her killing the last ruler of her kingdom to become Queen, that had me cracking up. Shoot, I’d rather follow her. Also, why were there no little boys in this town? Or children in general? There was only one little girl, who wanted to be a drummer and her dad? wouldn’t let her until the final group song at the end.
Cinderella Story? Why was this a Cinderella story? This literally could have been any other story. There’s a lot you can do with Cinderella to make the story stand out from the versions that came before it, and this movie attempts to do that but all it does is make me go “why was this Cinderella?” For example, Cindy’s life is not the best, she is treated badly by her family (what those levels are can vary) but most times, she barely has time to herself because she spends most of her time at the beck and call of her stepmother and stepsisters… right? Well, in this version, we never really saw her do any kind of “maid like duties”. We saw her bring tea to her family twice. She didn’t clean anything, no laundry, no carrying their shopping for them… like literally none of that. She actively is able to practice her hobby of being a dressmaker unencumbered. The stepmother is even trying to get her married off, it may be in her personal interest but she’s still giving her that energy alongside her daughters. This could have just been a story about a girl who wants to live her dreams in a society that may not take women seriously. Didn’t need to be “Cinderella”.
Reminded me of other/better Cinderella movies. My friend said the same thing lol, but it reminded me of Ella Enchanted, Ever After, Cinderella (2015) in particular. It didn’t quite have the unique voice it was hoping for. Not to mention, the clothing did give me other vibes, it wasn’t unique to this movie, even though I have seen Ellen Mirojnick’s work in other films and they have a more “distinctive” look/feel. Even though these movies are retellings of the same fairy tale, they all feel different to me. This movie feels like those other movies more than it feels like a “Cinderella adaptation”.
Overall, this movie isn’t horrible but it’s not good. It’s watchable… kind of but I have so many issues with it. I think Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver and Billy Porter are too good for the film. Some of the music choices work, some of the costumes are okay but the errors are glaring that they definitely outweigh the positives. I think the characters overall are bland, the music choices are not inspired and they sound exactly as they do normally… if they’d put them in a different style (similar to Whatta Man/Seven Nation Army) then it might have worked more. I hate hate hate Cinderella’s ballgown. I hate that this is a Cinderella film because it literally did not have to be, besides the transformation and ball stuff, there’s no reason for this to be a Cinderella film. They tried way to hard to be “girl power” when it wasn’t handled well and it was super obnoxious and shallow. Some character arcs aren’t earned and storylines aren’t written out well and some of them are just dropped. This movie is so weird. It could have been a great adaptation (not that we need more Cinderella films) but alas… here we are.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
I saw this movie the day it came out. I had to watch it again and really think on it to write this review. I feel like I was ranting for most of it… but ya know.
Did you see Cinderella (2021)? Let me know your thoughts on the comment section below!