Amazon’s version of Cinderella has still been a major talking point among Disney fans this week after it premiered last weekend, and opinions on the movie adaptation are still mixed. This version of the Cinderella story features Camila Cabello as Ella, an aspiring dressmaker whose focus on her dream job has been strangely off-putting to an audience that usually adores “girlboss” characters. Billy Porter was some people’s dream version of the Fairy Godmother, and some people’s nightmare version; some people found Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver to be endearing as the royal king and queen, while others found them to be too corny. Even Idina Menzel, who is usually revered by Disney audiences after her performances as Elsa in Frozen and Frozen 2, did not always impress everyone in Amazon Prime’s adaptation. But is this movie really as low in quality as some movie critics might lead viewers to expect?
It’s true that the soundtrack to the film is almost all covers of songs, and this was definitely a negative for some moviegoers. However, not all of the song covers were bad. While “Rhythm Nation” may have been an unexpected starting choice, and “Let’s Get Loud” might have been a fun but equally unexpected choice for a finale, the versions of “Somebody to Love” and “Material Girl” were actually quite enjoyable. “Somebody to Love” had a gospel choir that really added to its overall sound, and the Prince Charming (Prince Robert, in this case) actually has a singing voice that’s very good; moreover, the context of this song actually suits the Prince’s search for love really well! “Material Girl” worked because Idina Menzel added her own spins on it, there was a flirtatious farmboy involved, and the evil stepmother and Cinderella’s two ‘ugly’ stepsisters really embraced the tongue-in-cheek mischief in their performance. These two songs were among the most enjoyable from the film.
The comedic value of this movie was just as up and down as its reviews have been. Although some jokes didn’t quite land, some of its jokes were clever and really very funny! Prince Robert had several good one-liners (such as when he said that he would grow old with his chosen wife, all the way into “our forties”), including some repartee about bats, and many of the other characters had humorous lines. James Corden’s mouse character did make some rather uncomfortable jokes once he and the other mice had become humans for the ball, but overall the humor in the movie was equal parts lighthearted and sharp-witted. Those funny moments already bring the movie a step higher in quality.
One big thing in Cinderella’s favor is its self-awareness; the cast in this fairy tale do seem to realize that it’s campy, and over-the-top, but they’re embracing it. In a way, that actually makes the overall “camp” of the movie better. For example, when the “Fabulous Godmother” asks Cinderella if she wants to go to the ball, she is quick to say that she “was just singing and crying about it two minutes ago”. Lines like that really shine in this film, and so does the unexpected ending that allows the somewhat-heavy-handed Princess Gwen to take over the throne while our heroine (who is now in a very-deliberately non-labeled relationship with the prince) follows her dream of being a dressmaker. As cast member Idina Menzel said, “that’s the kind of Cinderella relationship that we would hope that she would have, healthy. It’s beautiful”. But the biggest thing supporting this movie is the fact that at its core, Amazon Prime’s Cinderella is actually made of exactly what the original 1950 movie was all about: dreaming big, finding love in your own way, persevering through the challenges in your days, and having a kind heart. And that alone makes it a better movie than anticipated. Is this movie worth a watch? Definitely–as long as you’re willing not to take things too seriously and to just have a bit of good, simple fun.