A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cinderella is a musical romcom retelling of the classic fairy tale, starring Camila Cabello as main character Ella. From writer-director Kay Cannon, this version has more of a girl empowerment spin than other takes on the story (it is decidedly not about a damsel in distress), as well as themes of perseverance and empathy. The romance is limited to flirting, dancing, and a climactic kiss, but there are a few suggestive jokes that tweens are likely to pick up on, like when a woman says that the prince doesn't have a lot to work with upstairs and likely "anywhere else," or when a creepy neighbor thanks Ella's stepmother for the mental image that her "blossoming daughters" have given him for the day. While several unkind things are said (language includes "hell," "jerk," "idiot," and "mama's boy"), there's no violence. Supporting characters include people of all shapes, colors, and sizes, but the main cast isn't notably diverse, and there's one comment about a man who uses a cane not because he needs it but because "chicks dig it." The musical numbers are mostly pop covers, and the all-star cast includes Billy Porter (as the Fabulous Godmother), Pierce Brosnan, Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine, Maddie Baillio, James Corden, and more.
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What's the story?
In this musical version of CINDERELLA, Camila Cabello plays the titular orphaned main character. Her widowed stepmother (Idina Menzel) is cruel, keeping Ella in the basement doing the family's chores and sewing with her three mice friends. But her two stepsisters, Anastasia (Maddie Baillio) and Drizella (Charlotte Spencer), are more clueless than mean. Meanwhile, Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) turns down a profitable proposal to marry the princess of a nearby kingdom, upsetting his father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan), who demands that his son find a potential wife or forfeit his inheritance to his younger sister, Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive). After spotting Ella at the announcement of the "find the prince a wife" ball, Robert decides to disguise himself and meet her as a commoner. He encourages Ella, who dreams of designing and selling her own gowns, to attend the ball as a way to showcase her creations. Eventually Ella is helped by her Fabulous Godmother (Billy Porter), who helps transform her to get to the ball, where she and Prince Robert share an unforgettable evening together -- until midnight, of course.
Is it any good?
There's a lot to enjoy about writer-director Kay Cannon's musical adaptation of Cinderella, which is ultimately a lighthearted tribute to pop songs and love stories. It's Pitch Perfect mixed with Moulin Rouge, by way of a classic fairy tale. The song selection is particularly fun, including a mashup of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" with Des'ree's "You Gotta Be"; the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" and Salt-N-Pepa's "Whatta Man"; plus Madonna ("Material Girl"), Jennifer Lopez ("Let's Get Loud"), Queen ("Somebody to Love"), and a couple of original tracks sung by Cabello and Menzel. Cannon mixes large ensemble numbers (the mashups) with smaller, more intimate numbers. There's also a positive representation of Cinderella as a confident, independent, talented young woman who doesn't need Prince Robert to save her: She has big goals and the skills she needs to make her dreams a reality. This isn't a knight-in-shining-armor romance; in fact, at some point, viewers might wonder if the romance will actually end in romantic "happily ever after" at all.
If the musical numbers are the movie's strong point (although not all of the singers have Cabello/Menzel-level voices), the writing comes up short, including a few too many unnecessary risqué jokes and double entendres. While plenty of kid-aimed movies have jokes and comments aimed at older audiences, the ones here include a borderline predatory neighbor coming by to ogle Ella and her sisters and say things like he's happy to see the "blossoming young daughters" who've provided him "with a mental picture to nourish him throughout the day." Ew. Still, it's (mostly) forgivable, because there's enough humor (Brosnan and Driver are great as bickering royals) and positive messages to outweigh the missteps. Cabello holds her own as an actor, and her chemistry with Galitzine is sweet enough for the movie's target tween audience. And it's always a win to see scene-stealing Porter in a dazzling outfit (kudos to costume designer Ellen Mirojnick for the expressive gowns, especially Fab G.'s). While this Cinderella is unlikely to become the default version of the story, it's good enough to merit a family viewing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that many traditional fairy tales are criticized for having female characters who have to be rescued by a prince/man. How does this take on Cinderella change that expectation? Does it still "feel" like Cinderella despite the changes?
Why do you think there are so many adaptations of Cinderella? Which ones are your favorite, and why? What do they have in common?
- On DVD or streaming: September 3, 2021
- Cast: Camila Cabello, Billy Porter, Nicholas Galitzine, Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Pierce Brosnan
- Director: Kay Cannon
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales
- Character strengths: Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: suggestive material and language
- Last updated: October 1, 2021
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