My 9-year-old son and I loved the first 2 acts of Amazon’s 2021 Cinderella adaptation. It was funny, colorful, upbeat, and lighthearted. However, the movie completely fell apart at the end. It’s like the writers threw their hands up and said, “Never mind!” and just decided to abandon all conflict and any sense of climax, tying it up in a too-neat bow that made me question the point of this adaptation in the first place.
In this version, Camila Cabello’s Cinderella didn’t need anything but herself from start to finish. Audiences don’t really care about what happens to someone who’s already entirely self-sufficient, who never faces any real threats or challenges, and doesn’t have to transform or overcome a hardship of any kind. Not once do we actually fear for her or her outcome.
Her stepmom, on the other hand, played by Idina Menzel, was the realest character in the story. She actually had motivations and a reason for being the way she was. Her backstory is heartbreaking when she comes out with it. In the end we see her transform—in a small way, but it’s enough.
Of course, there were no strong or developed male characters. Because a strong, complex male character is out of vogue right now. The one masculine character (Pierce Brosnan’s king) is only there to be made a fool and a mockery of. The clueless prince and all his clueless friends are…clueless.
There was one original song I really I liked, sung by the stepmom. It was about how women with a talent or a dream must: “bury it, marry it, or carry it to the grave.” It was powerful. The stepmom was an example of someone who had to bury her dream. The queen, portrayed by Minnie Driver, married her dream away, and the princess (a new character to the canon, called Princess Gwen) carried it, supposedly expecting to carry it to her grave (I won’t spoil the ending). I would’ve loved to have seen that whole concept better developed with the titular character, but Cinderella had it way too easy.
This film basically took away everything beloved about the idea of a “Cinderella story.” The whole crux is that a girl with a miserable life and miserable circumstances, who is treated poorly, perseveres with grace. In the end, her own grace and perseverance, along with a sprinkle of fairy dust, are what earns her an escape from abuse, in the form of true love and being truly cared for, in every sense of care (affection, financially, etc.).
But, this Cinderella didn’t have that bad of circumstances to begin with. Her family wasn’t wicked, and they did care for her, in their own misguided way. She had a talent. She was driven. Also, super cute and spunky and pretty. Her worst conflict is that she has to choose between the best of two worlds: pursue her dream, or marry a prince she loves. I mean, how is that a conflict? Why can’t she do both? Again, I won’t spoil the ending, but the resolution is too simple.
At any rate, I’m glad I watched it, because now I understand the importance of delivering expectations to fairytale lovers. You can’t update a timeless story with a timely lens and expect it to radiate the same magic that everyone’s looking for. It just doesn’t work—unless you really raise the stakes and do something wholly original beyond dated trends and platitudes.
View my review on Amazon –> https://www.amazon.com/review/RIVU0EFJAT3QI/