Kay Cannon’s “Cinderella” (2021) teeters on the line between a classic fairy tale and a pop star’s music video. Starring Camila Cabello, a singer and songwriter who once belonged to the music group Fifth Harmony and has since led a successful solo music career, “Cinderella” loses the class of the original fairy tale and instead lands itself as a sad attempt at a pop culture-filled musical.
“Cinderella” seems to make a particular attempt at including stars who are famous beyond just their acting careers — contributing to the pop-culture relevance in the film. Cabello’s substantial media attention has come from her success as an artist. Billy Porter, who plays the Fabulous (previously referred to as “fairy”) Godmother, is an actor and singer in addition to being known by fans for his extravagant fashion sense and red carpet styles. Finally, James Corden, who plays one of the mice, has appeared in previous film and television productions but is best known for his talk show “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and his success as a comedian.
The pop culture attempts of “Cinderella” are not only visible throughout the cast, but are also heard within the dialogue. If someone told me the screenplay was written by an aspiring “cool mom,” who constantly quoted slang words and sayings she had overheard from her daughter in an attempt to seem “hip,” I would believe them. Filled with overused and previously popular expressions, such as “poppin” and “yas,” the dialogue of “Cinderella” feels try-hard and senseless. These simple but cringeworthy words are not the only examples of what could be considered an attempt to incorporate modern or popular language into the film. Unnecessarily sassy phrases, such as Cinderella’s response of, “Yes, I was just crying and singing about it like two minutes ago,” to the Fabulous Godmother’s question about whether she still wanted to attend the ball, after having a breakdown about not being able to go, reinforces the feeling that the writer is trying too hard to make the language sound modern by often needlessly throwing the word “like” into sentences to represent how Cannon supposes teenagers talk these days. Such lines sound intrusive, clashing with the old-fashioned village and its traditions that encompass the characters’ lives.
Despite these diminishing factors, the entire plot should not be undermined. Character development, which is largely necessary for a strong story, certainly plays a role in “Cinderella.” Although it comes rather abruptly, with most character development not being shown until the final minutes of the film, there is certainly a clear relationship between the plot and the characters’ progression. Additionally, the story is an entertaining one with a solid plot — there are clear conflicts and resolutions — but most of its glory is derived from the animated classic “Cinderella” and is not the screenwriter’s original work.
One element this version of “Cinderella” does well is its catchy songs, which remain relevant to the context of the various scenes in which they appear. While songs can sometimes seem frivolous in movies, “Cinderella” uses them to its advantage, driving the plot forward and conveying thoughts inside the characters’ heads. As Cinderella works on dressmaking in an attempt to begin her own business, Cabello sings “Million to One” (2021), an original song for the film that repeats, “You’re gonna know my name/ Yeah, you’re gonna know my name,” demonstrating the hope and determination Cinderella holds for her future success. Unfortunately, the actors’ lip syncing is occasionally off, distracting the viewer from the scene and instead questioning why a production with such a large budget (exemplified by the costume and set design, stacked cast and seamless camera work) would find its finished product with such a blaring error.
Despite its few strengths, this version of “Cinderella” will find itself among the ranks of other letdown classic remakes, which continue to exploit original success in the pursuit of profit.