Amazon Prime review: This 'Cinderella' is empowered, entrepreneurial

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 04 2021 08:53 AM

Camilla Cabello as Cinderella
Camilla Cabello as Cinderella

As the 1950 Disney animated film told us, she was a kind orphan girl who was made a servant by her wicked stepmother and cruel stepsisters. She was able to attend a ball at the palace with the magical ballgown from her fairy godmother and attracted the Prince. Even if Cinderella had to run off by midnight when the magic wore off, the Prince was able to find her using the glass slipper she left behind, and they lived happily ever after. 

Yes, this one is another film about Cinderella, another musical version but with a very modern twist. 

The Hot 100 pop hits from the '70s, '80s, '90s, to more recent years, used in this musical soundtrack were an enjoyable mix. Right off the bat, there was an energetic Janet Jackson hit to open the whole film. Later on, there will be songs originally sung by acts as eclectic as Des'ree, Salt-N-Pepa, White Stripes, Earth, Wind and Fire, Queen, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna. Who would have predicted that an Ed Sheeran song would be perfect for that first dance of the Prince and Ella at the ball?

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Pop star and Fifth Harmony girl group alumna Camilla Cabello was quite winsome in the lead role as Ella. As this was her first lead role, admittedly her neophyte nerves were quite apparent in certain scenes. She had that distinct breathy pop singing voice that still manages to be heard clearly in the group songs. 

Her Prince Robert was played by British actor Nicholas Galitzine, who also did his own singing quite creditably here. He and Cabello looked quite good together as a romantic pair, especially during the ball scenes. 

Idina Menzel is a Broadway icon whose belting prowess was legendary. In the tradition of Maleficent and Cruella, director Kay Cannon also gave the stepmother Vivian a little sympathetic backstory. 

Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver played Robert's parents, the imperious King Rowan and his Queen Beatrice. Brosnan made fun of his own notorious singing voice in one particularly cringy scene. 

The surprising (and controversial) piece of casting was that of Billy Porter as the Fairy Godmother, a role he imbued with his fabulous drag queen flamboyance.

In this new musical version of the fairy tale written and directed by Cannon (noted for writing "Pitch Perfect"), the timeless story made more sprightly and more contemporary twist by its underlying theme of female empowerment. The classic Cinderella had been criticized to be a meek, very passive character who had no active hand whatsoever in her fate. However, Cannon's iteration of her heroine Ella was anything but passive. She did not fold with the poor hand life dealt her, and instead resolved to make her own fortune on her own talents.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."