Millenial Cringe-erella: Latest ‘Cinderella’ remake girlboss-ifies the classic

When it comes to life, only a handful of things are guaranteed. The rising of the sun, the inevitable embrace of death, and another rehashed, sub-par version of a glass-slippered, animal-whispering, at times increasingly annoying ‘I’m-not-like-other-girls’ Cinderella. The year 2021 has given us yet another iteration of the classic fairy tale. This time, it comes with an aspiring girlboss at the centre of the narrative wanting to beat the odds and build a fashion empire that could give real-life supervillain Jeff Bezos a run for his unfathomably large sum of money, and also help her get out of living in her (somewhat) evil stepmother’s basement. Like the gift that absolutely no one asked for, the new Amazon Prime exclusive musical Cinderella, starring pop star Camila Cabello, just keeps on giving… reasons to switch off your screen and do literally anything else.  The setting of the film, written and directed by Kay Cannon of Pitch Perfect fame, is difficult to pin down, seemingly ping-ponging between the 1800s and early 2010s. Perhaps the film would have been better off being released in either of the two periods. The cringe-inducing, peak millennial humour would have fared much better in 2012, and the absence of any modern technology whatsoever would have prevented the release of this disaster altogether in 1870.  While the film could have benefitted from the ambiguous setting, something the 2016 Damien Chazelle musical La La Land excels at, Cinderella fails to maintain any suspension of disbelief. The tonal inconsistencies are most obvious in the disconnected dialogue, jumping from dated conversations about a woman’s place in society to the abrupt use of modern slang, with no effort to bridge the gap.   The characters in the film also fail to do the story any real favours. Their cardboard cutout-like two-dimensionality is so intense, it keeps the viewer from getting invested in any of the (non-existent) character arcs. The prince, played by Nicholas Galitzine, is a hopeless romantic airhead with the personality of a stale breadstick, who predictably falls in love at first sight. Cinderella is a determined girlboss who will let nothing stand in the way of her achieving her capitalist dreams, even if that means working for a queen who murdered for the throne. The prince’s younger sister, Princess Gwen, played by Tallulah Greive, is politically correct and wants nothing more than “a seat at the table” with the men, and that’s where her revolutionary potential ends. The stepsisters are drivelling idiots and, well, that’s about all they are, really.       The only character who displays any semblance of a layered personality is Vivian, the stepmother, played by Idina Menzel. The film retcons the stepmother, giving her a backstory where she too had big dreams of being a professional pianist which were eventually crushed, with her ‘wickedness’ born more out of self-preservation than hate. The character transforms from the archetypal villain to one with more of an ambiguous standing in the story, and Menzel’s performance can be considered the film’s only saving grace. Some credit is also due to Billy Porter for his fun ‘Fabulous’ Godmother, but the fact that the character was on screen for a total of maybe ten minutes, as well as some of Porter’s cringe-y dialogue, disqualifies the actor from the race to save this trainwreck.  The script involves so much stereotypical ‘woke’ language, that at times the dialogue feels like it has been picked up from listicles on certain millennial news websites. The ‘correctness’ is heavy-handed and its incorporation into the clunky script seems forced and completely unrelatable.  Containing two forgettable original musical numbers performed by Cabello and Menzel, with the other songs in the film being covers, Cinderella lacks originality. However, there are instances during a couple of the musical numbers, in particular, the ballroom mashup of Seven Nation Army and Whatta Man, and the stepmother’s rendition of Material Girl with her daughters, where the audience may find themselves tapping their feet or grooving along to the music.  Cabello’s disastrous lip-syncing does not do much to help. Her quivering voice and jutted lower lip give this film the feel of a Disney Channel classic like Camp Rock, and just to be clear, that is in no way a compliment. The actor’s roots as a pop star, and the expectations that come with the label, made the musical performance all the more disappointing.   However, when it comes to disappointments, the fashion in the film truly takes the cake. For a plot centred so heavily around fashion, the costumes were lacklustre, and at times straight-up horrendous. The clothes Cinderella designed looked boring, and nowhere near worth the kind of attention they were scripted to attract. Even the character’s infamous ballgown, designed by Cinderella but conjured by the Fabulous Godmother, failed to make an impact. All the magic in the world can’t cure a lack of imagination. Perhaps Cinderella should have been bippity-boppity-beamed off back to the drawing board.  No mention of magic in Cinderella would be complete without bringing up the godawful CGI mice, one of whom is played by James Corden (who also produced the film). Now, there’s good CGI, there’s bad CGI, there are the depths of hell, and then there’s whatever is going on in this film, particularly the scene where Corden transforms back into a mouse at midnight. After traumatising audiences as a human-cat hybrid in the dreaded Cats, Corden is back with a new look for your sleep paralysis demon, this time in half-rat form. A human head on a rat body, both things horrifyingly to scale. This film can probably be used as legal evidence to ban Corden from playing any animal-related characters until the heat death of the universe, at least. Until then, chuck the rat into a CGI inferno. In fact, throw in the whole film while you’re at it.     

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