'Cinderella' review: a boss in glass slippers

Once upon a time, Cinderella dreamed of owning a business. At least that’s what the story tells in Kay Cannon’s new film, which takes t...


Once upon a time, Cinderella dreamed of owning a business. At least that’s what the story tells in Kay Cannon’s new film, which takes the princess tale into the 21st century with Top 40 pop songs, self-conscious dialogue, and mundane bossy sensibility.

Among the countless iterations that history has passed through through the ages, this “Cinderella” (streaming on Amazon), with Camila Cabello in the role of the orphan girl, is forgettable. It’s strangely fascinating, however, as a study of modernized fairy tale semiotics. In this kingdom steeped in anachronism, Ella fantasizes not about princes on horseback but about becoming a ball gown tycoon. “You’re going to know my name,” she says in an original opening issue, picturing a bazaar store called Dresses by Ella.

This thirst for corporate success replaces other more familiar Cinderella story themes. The Flint Stepmother (Idina Menzel) receives a series of solo acts, while the Fabulous Godmother (Billy Porter) delivers sassy punchlines and a few strokes of the wand. But neither of the two matriarchal figures share a meaningful bond with our heroine, and even Ella’s late mother, whose presence often looms over Cinderella stories, matters little; Very early on, Ella happily sells her late mother’s heirloom brooch as part of an original dress design.

Dialogue is also receiving an update. Forget “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”: here the town crier raps, the rascal Prince (Nicholas Galitzine) jokes with his sovereign brothers and the suffocating King (Pierce Brosnan) and Queen (Minnie Driver) jostle each other whose throne is bigger . Everyone speaks in concrete, self-referential terms – a style of dialogue of the day often associated with the scripting of Joss Whedon. “Yeah, I was just crying and singing about it, like two minutes ago,” Ella moans, when the godmother asks her if she wants to go to the ball.

There are notes of pizzazz and panache that enlivened more bubbly jukebox musicals like “Pitch Perfect,” for which Cannon wrote the screenplay. But with such a silly tale, even Driver humming the opening notes to “Let’s Get Loud” is hard to appreciate. Ella uses the ball as a networking event, the monarchy lets a woman bend over the table, and everyone lives obnoxiously forever, at least until the next Cinderella remake.

Cinderella
Classified PG. Duration: 1 hour 53 minutes. Look on Amazon.

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