Review: ‘Cinderella’ (2021)—Movie or Music Video?

Marked by one-dimensional writing and poor acting, Kay Cannon’s “Cinderella,” released on September 3, 2021, by Amazon Prime Studios, fails as an adaptation and film. The movie, which stars Camila Cabello as the titular character alongside Nicholas Galitzine, Billy Porter, and Idina Menzel, was based off of Charles Perrault’s short story (Cinderella: or, the Little Glass Slipper) written in the 15th century and included plot elements from the iconic 1950 Disney film. Cannon’s “Cinderella” is an aspiring dressmaker living under the cruelty of her stepfamily. Dissimilar to both the 1950 film and Perrault’s story, Cinderella’s ambitions are much more concrete, and the society she lives in is more visibly patriarchal. Caution: there are spoilers ahead.

Ironically, the movie fails in accomplishing the one thing Cannon wanted to make unique about the film—breaking stereotypes. The characters in “Cinderella” are so overly distinguished by their, at times repressive, beliefs—ambition, dedication to patriarchy, autonomy—that they fall right back into them. Take Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive) the intelligent and witty sister of the Prince (Nicholas Galitzine). From the very start of the movie, it is made apparent that she is much more fit to rule than her brother, often suggesting solutions to issues such as poverty and developing infrastructure. Yet her plotline is so overly pushed that it detracts from the movie instead of adding depth. In one scene, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) gets into a verbal altercation with the Prince about his arranged marriage. In the angry moments of silence that ensue, Gwen awkwardly asks, “Is now a good time to ask why we are spending money on catapults when we have so many already?” to which the Queen rolls her eyes. Not only does this line make an already poorly-written scene even worse, but it also reflects poorly on Gwen’s character. Any focus the writers may have wanted to put on her capability as a ruler is masked by how irritating she comes off to the audience and even the characters themselves. The movie’s attempt to relate to current social issues is so overpowering that it exasperates its audience and diminishes its original intent to entertain and break stereotypes.

Another issue with “Cinderella” is its clichéd writing and poor acting. The two lead actors, Camila Cabello and Nicholas Galitzine, have no on-screen chemistry. Almost every interaction feels awkward and forced, only exacerbated by the movie’s disjointed and clunky writing. Already cliché phrases such as, “You’re the one,” and, “I have to chase my dreams,” are poorly delivered, and the combination makes their scenes difficult to watch.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of “Cinderella” is the failure of incorporating modern elements and trends into the original plotline. While set in what is presumably 19th century Europe, the language spoken in the narration and between the characters is reminiscent of the 21st century. This makes the movie feel off-putting, and is only compounded by the inclusion of modern songs into the film. A half-hearted attempt at relevancy, a number of the songs, including “Rhythm Nation,” “Somebody To Love,” and “Perfect” have no correlation to the plot, are shoehorned poorly, and clash with its historical setting. Even the movie’s original songs are distinctively pop, making the film seem more like a cheesy music video than a big-studio production. Including both modern and traditional elements in the movie may have been intended to increase relevance and clarity, but the incorporation floundered, and thus, they completely clash with one another, overwhelming the audience in the process.

“Cinderella” is a clunky, sloppily-written and abysmally-acted stumble through a lineage of previous, superior Cinderellas. Forcing vague social justice themes to try and stay somewhat relevant, it fails in its goal of bucking stereotypes and cheapens the movie overall. Its clumsy acting makes most scenes awkward to watch (and even worse to sit through), and its failure of melding a historical narrative with modern elements is jarring and tepid at best. It seems that not only did “Cinderella” leave its glass slipper on the palace steps at midnight, but its quality, coherence, and watchability too.
“Cinderella” receives a 2 out of 5 for its failed attempts at relevancy, clichéd writing, and disjointed storyline.