“Really, another one?” That’s probably what most people asked when they saw the trailer for the latest version of Cinderella. This fairytale may be timeless, but it’s been told so many times that the glass slipper is starting to look out of style. We’ve seen the definitive version in Disney’s animated classic. We’ve seen more progressive interpretations like Ever After, Disney’s 2015 remake, and the colorblind TV movie starring Brandy. We’ve even gotten contemporary retellings with A Cinderella Story. What more can you do with a story we already know inside and out? More than expected, as this new version is kind of a ball. Pardon the pun. Actually, don’t, I’m really proud of it.
It might not be the first Cinderella movie with a self-aware sense of humor, a diverse cast, or a modern mindset. Just because a film doesn’t break new ground doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile, though. This interpretation is consistently funny, the modern updates are mostly welcome, and Camila Cabello storms onto the scene in a star-making turn as Cinderella. Cabello infuses Cinderella with the spunky spirit of a high schooler who’s too cool for the ball. This Cinderella would rather be making dresses to sell, although nobody in the kingdom is ready for a businesswoman.
Cinderella’s rebellious, borderline smartass attitude catches the eye of Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine), who’s more interested in love than power. While Cinderella isn’t looking for romance, a spark inevitably goes off between the two. Thus, there’s a more compelling dilemma in the third act than if the glass slipper will fit. Will Cinderella choose her career, romance, or find a balance? She’s not the only one with a life-changing decision, as Robert must also choose between his duty to the crown and his heart. Of course, Robert’s sister (Tallulah Greive) would be an infinitely more qualified ruler.
Cinderella and the Prince aren’t the only ones given engaging updates. The stepsisters (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer) aren’t exactly nice to Cinderella, but there is a more nuanced camaraderie between the three. If this were Mean Girls, Cinderella would be Cady while the stepsisters would be Karen and Gretchen. That makes Idina Menzel’s stepmother Regina George. Although the stepmother can be quite nasty when the film needs her to be, keeping Cinderella as her slave isn’t her endgame. She wants to see Cinderella married off, although her tactics are mostly wicked. Thankfully, Cinderella has a Fairy Godparent fabulously played by Billy Porter.
Kay Cannon previously wrote Pitch Perfect and made her directorial debut with Blockers. Her knack for music and comedy is on full display in Cinderella. Her film is self-aware and cheeky without going into pure satire. Seeing Pierce Brosnan cast as the King, I cringed thinking about Mamma Mia!. The film has fun with Brosnan’s notoriously bad singing, though, leaving the more emotional tunes for Cabello, Menzel, and others. The soundtrack, which mixes existing songs with a few originals, roars to life with an enthusiastic ensemble and vibrant choreography. Being a Cinderella movie, the costume design will also leave every fashionista envious.
At times, the familiarity at this story’s core does slow the pacing down. Whenever Cinderella does begin to drag, however, there’s a lavish musical number or a laugh-out-loud moment that gets the film back on track. In many respects, this feels like what Ella Enchanted was trying to be seventeen years ago. It’s campy fun while also delivering positive role models and messages along the way. Some of the modern references might not hold up decades from now. When evaluating the pantheon of past, present, and future Cinderella movies, though, this should be viewed as a noteworthy stepping stone.