Review: Camilla Cabello's 'Cinderella' a tone deaf jukebox musical stuck on auto-tune
Courtesy of Amazon Studios/Sony
Another day. Another corporate smothering of a dated fairytale rebranded, retooled and recast with a global popstar. Say hello to Kay Cannon’s “Pitch Perfect” inspired take on “Cinderella” starring Camilla Cabello. There’s plenty of storybook elements from bright colors, corny sidekicks, to a soothing rendition of “Need Somebody To Love,” but wait, didn’t “Ella Enchanted” already claim that feat? Cannon’s hip-hop spin on the most rehashed princess of modern day cinema is a tone deaf exercise unafraid of making it clear, in the film's opening cover of, checks notes, Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” this isn’t going to be your conventional retelling.
And to its credit, “Cinderella” certainly gets style points for occasionally rousing the senses (a “Seven Nation Army” and Salt-N-Pepa “What A Man” mashup is a cheery highlight), but the Cabello vehicle doesn’t have anything new or exciting to say about feminism and modernizes the character of Cinderella without much luster. Not helping matters is the movie begins as literally every one of Cinderella’s narratives does: her father has died, she’s forced to live with a wicked and cruel stepmother (Idina Menzel) has two dimwitted stepsisters and dreams of finding her own independence. Her only friends are three mice (one of them is voiced by, yes, James Corden) who’s CGI renderings look questionable and she sings to herself, alot.
No matter, Cinderella (Cabello) makes great use of her time dwelling in the basement, utilizing thrown away fabric for crafty designs, though she must find a husband to wed, because that’s just what Cinderella must do. Before you can say “impromptu ‘Material Girl’ cover by Idina Menzel,” Cinderella catches the eyes of Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) who invites her to the coveted ball where, after the clock strikes twelve, magic will wear off and a hunch tells me she’ll probably leave behind a glass slipper. The only refreshing piece of casting in the film is Billy Porter who steals the show playing Cinderella’s appropriately titled fairy godmother Fab G.
Sadly, Porter’s inspired take can’t hold the wobbly foundation together. Those who devoured the recent Disney Channel success ala “The Descendants” and love “Pitch Perfect” will find plenty worth embracing, let alone Cabello who brings an energized fanbase eager to watch anything their favorite singer puts her name on. “Cinderella” volleys between the type of message it wants to send and is oblivious that drilling home half-baked messages of feminism and sugar coating them with the glossy swish of an auto-tuned paintbrush feels like an insult to young girls everywhere
Cabella is a plucky, believable Cinderella with incredible pipes, but she never nails down a solid performance, which isn’t necessarily her fault, but the script’s lack of depth doesn’t do the singer any favors. Canon found excellent comedic success with “Blockers” (one of the last major studio comedies to make money) and it remains a delightful rewatch. Hard to imagine “Cinderella” maintaining that type of legacy when most of the performances will probably end up on Tik Tok where attention spans will be more strained and the impulse to continue swiping will be hard to resist.
CINDERELLA debuts on Amazon Prime Video, Friday September 3rd