- Emma Simmonds
- 1 September 2021
The much-told fairytale becomes a feminist musical comedy in the hands of Pitch Perfect's Kay Cannon
Is the archaic and endlessly-trotted-out tale of Cinderella really the story today's young women and girls need? It's only been six years since the last major version, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James and Cate Blanchett. If the prospect of going over it again leaves you feeling flat, take comfort from the fact that it is in the hands of 30 Rock writer and Pitch Perfect creator Kay Cannon, and she's not afraid to mix things up narratively, moulding the material into a toe-tapping musical comedy.
Cuban-born pop star Camila Cabello gives it some oomph as Cinders / Ella, with Frozen's Idina Menzel her wicked stepmother and Nicholas Galitzine the pouting Prince Robert. Best of all, Billy Porter has been cast as Ella's 'Fabulous Godmother' and he descends in glittering gold for a makeover scene that's Queer Eye crossed with panto. While many of the basic ingredients remain the same – there's a ball, a rush to make it away before midnight, a discarded slipper – Ella now harbours ambition as a dress designer, with her romantic yearnings, refreshingly, coming second.
This jukebox musical also features a number of original songs, powerfully belted out by Cabello and Menzel in particular, with Doc Brown's rapping town crier a nice touch. But, as is often the way when existing musical material is used, the numbers can feel a bit random and lyrically ill-fitting (for instance, during his cover of Queen's 'Somebody To Love' the layabout prince inexplicably, and seemingly unironically, belts out the line 'I work hard every day of my life. I work 'til I ache my bones'). It also doesn't help that some of the CGI looks cheap, and did James Corden have to pop up as one of Ella's mouse-friends-turned-footmen?
Nevertheless, it's hard not to get swept up in the songs and silliness, with the script boasting some enjoyable irreverence and disdain for past-it traditions and likeable supporting work from Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver as the King and Queen. If it doesn't have the finesse to make it the definitive version, and put a stop to the endless cycle of adaptations, the empowered touches are genuinely uplifting and, this time, the emphasis is firmly on fun.
Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 3 September.