The week this new incarnation of Cinderella was Released on Amazon a video went viral on Twitter. Co-star James Corden was doing one of his manufactured flash mobs for The Late Late Show with fellow cast members. That’s not the important bit. There is a site everyone who has been unfortunate enough to see this video will remember. Corden doing crotch thrusts in a mouse costume. Cordon is a very easy target since effectively emanating and becoming a US staple. For good reason. His deliberately unthreatening but surprisingly unnerving media persona is more disturbing than it has any right to be. Even by Cordon’s low standards, the site of his thrusting in a onesie was genuine nightmare fuel. The clips virality may well have put a certain percentage of the audience off even checking out a film that was likely to be terrible. The reviews came and it seemed that general audiences went missing anything. That said for this viewer that was the level of morbid curiosity In seeing if the experience was that painful.
There also has to be a level of somewhat humiliating honesty in this preamble. This author quite likes some of director Kay Cannon’s previous work. For as much as a third entry completely killed the franchise the first two Pitch Perfects (which she wrote) are riotously good fun. Blockers is one of the better studio comedies released in the last several years. Much as this newest Cinderella suggested it was going to be terrible this critic did approach it with an open mind. Was it that bad?
Yes and no. On one level there’s no denying this is a very bad film. That said as someone who likes his musical theatre this critic was bizarrely fascinated by some of the bizarro choices made. It’s best described as Pitch Perfect 4 with a light dollop of the Cinderella narrative over the top of proceedings. It’s a jukebox musical with plenty of on the nose corporate-mandated girl boss feminism and some truly Insane musical choices and atrocious performances. For the first five minutes, things look like they’re going to be a fairly standard, post-Greatest Showman bombast over execution modern musical. Soon after audiences are introduced to Camila Cabello interpretation of the classic character and she sings one of the films few original offerings. There’s no getting around this. Cabello sings like she has a constant throat infection. Her vocal performance can range on difficult to listen to at various points especially in this introduction sequence. Her vocal limitations are even starker during one of the films few less offensive musical moments. Cinderella and the Prince celebrate their coming together with a cover of the duet arrangement for Ed Sheeran’s Perfect. On the nose but inoffensive enough right. It would seem so until Viewers realise that Camilla Cabello could never dream of having the vocal range of Beyoncé. That’s one of the more fitting musical choices.
Elsewhere Idina Menzel tries her best with thin material to ham it up as the evil stepmother. Menzel may have one of the most iconic voices in contemporary musical theatre. Unfortunately, it’s not built to cover frothy pop songs. This makes one of her main musical moments being a cover of Madonna’s Material Girl a frankly baffling choice and experience to sit through. That’s not the only odd musical choice. Audiences also get an already dated cover of the mid-2010s hit Am I Wrong by Nico and Vins It’s completely random and yet incredibly on the nose choice for its placement within the plot. The off the wall musical mash-ups come to a head when producers try to fuse Salt And Pappa’s Whatta Man and The White Stripes Seven Nation Army during the central ball sequence. The best material in the Pitch Perfect films has an organic sense of magnetism due to the rules established by the in-universe “riff-off” mechanic. Here it feels like Cannon and the musical team hit shuffle on then music library of choice and smashed together whatever songs appeared first. Things range from inoffensive to barely tailorable depending on what sequence is being viewed at any one time.
The one element of the film that kind of works is Billy Porter’s one scene plus narration as the fairy godmothers. This writer is admittedly a big fan of the musical version of Kinky Boots. Porter can transition some of his Land of Lola energy into the role. That said the titular song( which he performs on the cast recording having originated Lola /Simon on Broadway already has a fairy godmother type feel to it. To the extent that this author’s first instinct wants to go and check the lyrics of his performance to see if they referenced a fairy godmother directly. The answer is unfortunately not Critically though this feels like something Porter can pull off in his sleep. It’s the one thing in terms of what this version of Cinderella is going for that kind of fits the brief. Other than that this film is a disaster.
It’s not difficult to see why Sony was keen to palm this off to Amazon ( who have taken the ball and run with it given the amount of advertising that has been done for it on the platform. Needless to say, it doesn’t deserve any of this
Many audiences will have been put off this new Cinderella, thanks to James Corden’s car thrusting related adventures. It’s not like they’re missing a lot. This is a cynical and pointless corporate exercise. It is lacking any charm or an original take on the very well worn trail. This is not even mentioning the jukebox soundtrack. The music alternates between inoffensive and blatantly bizarre at the tip of a hat. This one element almost makes the film worth a morbid curiosity recommendation. The critical word in that sentence is almost. Unless viewers want to see corporate girl boss feminism at its most cynical this film equivalent is best avoided.