Credit: McGill - Library

Review: Cinderella (2021)

By Kira McCarthy

Pitch Perfect director Kay Cannon is not so in tune with her latest retelling of the famous pauperess to princess tale.

Singer-Songwriter Camila Cabello made her acting debut in director Kay Cannon’s sparkling vision of a new and improved adaptation of Cinderella, which, despite its notable cast, dazzling visuals and array of popular songs, dulls in comparison to its predecessors.

Produced by and also starring James Corden, this jukebox musical follows the story of Cinderella, or, Ella (Camilla Cabello): an ambitious, career-driven young woman who is forced into servitude by her stepmother (Idina Menzel) and her two daughters (Charlotte Spencer and Maddie Baillio) following her father’s death. Despite the expectations of her old-fashioned-patriarchal village and stepmother’s expectations, Ella won’t let her ambitious dreams of becoming a fashion designer/business owner falter. And all it takes is an unexpected encounter with royalty to change her life forever.

This may seem like a hot take, but the film does have some strong redemptive parts: an array of dazzling outfits and enchanting ball gowns at the prince’s ball, a few humorous moments and interesting plot points. That being said, most of the storyline and characters felt underdeveloped while simultaneously making the intended message of the movie so obvious that it weakened the story. It proved difficult to garner enthusiasm for the diverse cast when their roles were restricted to such shallow character development.

 The film can boast many iconic songs to its tracklist including Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and Queen’s Somebody To Love. However, some of the music choices left me thoroughly bewildered, questioning why did they choose THAT one? And while there was no shortage of talented singers and a solid ensemble, everything felt a little…disjointed. And whilst I typically adore any musical, this one did not have the cohesive feel that allows for natural narrative flow. Quite honestly, it felt like a series of music videos pushed together, not a feature length movie.Cannon wanted to show her audience a more relatable Cinderella who was “more active [and] the hero of her own story” (translation: more Girlboss), however, the Cinderella I remember watching as a child was not a poor helpless thing who only waited for a prince to save her. Despite her cruel circumstances, she was practical, she was kind to others around her, she had integrity and inner strength – and she also fell in love. And while I really did want to enjoy Cannon’s depiction of Ella’s aspirational fashion journey to stitch her way to the top, it just didn’t cut it – with nearly every element feeling frayed.


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