Describing a new film as “not as bad as the viral video of James Corden stopping traffic and enthusiastically thrusting at a car might suggest” is probably the very definition of damning with faint praise. Yet that’s about as fair a summary of Kay Cannon’s knowingly cheesy reworking of Cinderella as can be given: it’s not a masterpiece by any stretch – and indeed it’s often intensely irritating – but it could easily have been a lot, lot worse.
The film stars Camila Cabello as the titular princess who, as ever, finds herself an outcast in the house she shares with her wicked stepmother (Idina Menzel) and odious step-sisters (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer). For the most part, the narrative sticks fairly closely to the well-worn tale, albeit with a couple of notable exceptions: this Cinderella certainly ain’t going to swat aside her dreams at the first sign of romantic interest from a glamorous prince, while her fairy godmother is replaced by a sassy godparent in the shape of Tony-award winning actor Billy Porter.
The cast also includes Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver as the King and Queen, while there’s a surprisingly large amount of faces from the UK comedy scene – including Romesh Ranganathan, James Acaster, Rob Beckett, and Ben Bailey-Smith, the latter of whom delivers a handful of original raps as the Town Cryer.
This being a musical, there are several large-scale song-and-dance numbers – most of them covers of well-known pop hits – which ensure it is always a lively affair, even if some of those songs can be a little cringeworthy to sit through. At times this Cinderella resembles a Disney Channel movie from the 2000s, at others it’s more like a high school pantomime with an A-list cast, but it’s a colourful and spirited production and for its intended target audience – namely young teenagers and Camila Cabello super-fans – it’s sure to tick all the right boxes.
For anyone outside of that demographic, however, the film will probably be of limited appeal. One or two of the jokes might raise a chuckle – including a rant from Princess Gwen (Tallulah Grieve) about her father’s insistence on buying more catapults – and there’s a certain amount of fun to be had with the more hammy, scenery-chewing performances from the likes of Brosnan and Driver, but beyond that, there’s not an awful lot to keep general audiences engaged or entertained.
The film is also full of very obvious flaws: there’s a distinct lack of noticeable chemistry between Cinderella and Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) for instance, while several of the scenes are hampered by embarrassingly stilted dialogue which can make the whole thing feel decidedly amateurish. Meanwhile the progressive messaging, though well-intentioned, is delivered in a rather on-the-nose and one-note fashion, while at one point there’s a brief scene where James Corden’s face appears atop a CGI mouse’s body – a sight almost as nightmarish as the aforementioned viral flash mob.
Originally intended for a theatrical release, Cinderella will instead open exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, and to be honest, streaming is probably a natural home for it. It’s not brilliant, and it’s certainly disposable, but for better or worse, it largely achieves what it sets out to do.