The seemingly endless live-action Disney remakes have found a way to make the old new again with “Cinderella,” starring Camila Cabello. Written and directed by Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect,” “30 Rock”), a graduate from the local Reed-Custer High School and Lewis University, the fairy-tale is set in a fictional time period of long ago while it breathes new life into the story with current social and global issues. What once was a rather dull and predictable story of a fair maiden being rescued by a wealthy prince has transformed into a funny feminist fairy tale with great music that will have you dancing in your living room, laughing aloud, and loving this new spin on a tired old one.
We meet poor Cinderella (Cabello) as she dreams of being a dressmaker, trapped in the basement of her stepmother Vivian’s (Idina Menzel) home with her difficult stepsisters constantly degrading her. Meanwhile, the rebellious Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) dares to defy his father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) who desperately wants his son to marry royalty and does not care an iota about love. His mother, Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver) understands her son’s reticence as she sees her own relationship with the King falter. As we all know with the story of Cinderella, a ball will take place for the Prince to choose his bride, but what we don’t know is all the different layers of story that don’t follow the old tried and tired storyline.
Cannon takes the time to develop all of her characters to the extent needed to augment Cinderella’s story and hone in on topical issues. A new character of Princess Gwen (Tallulah Grieve) who is always lurking around, pushing progressive concepts onto her father’s reluctant radar gives us great humor as well as thoughtfulness. And while we have those familiar characters of the footmen, formerly mice, the Fairy Godmother now known as Fab G (Billy Porter), and the nasty stepsisters, Anastasia (Maddie Baillio) and Drizella (Charlotte Spencer), each of these characters breaks the mold to find a new way to tell this story.
Let’s get back to our star and focal point of the story, Cinderella played by the not only gorgeous, but vocally beautiful Cabello. Again, Cannon allows this character to be so much more than just a pretty face waiting to be saved by some guy. She’s smart, creative, and has dreams to fulfill. She has a heart of gold, but is also driven to rise to her potential as a seamstress and future entrepreneur. Her brazen independence and unwillingness to fall into line and follow this antiquated patriarchal society gives this character a current-day and refreshing feel. And Cannon dares, successfully so, to take this character in a totally different direction as she does the character of Prince Robert. Gender stereotypes are shattered along with a formerly predictable storyline.
The numerous side stories unfolding give this old fairy tale much more depth. Stepmom Vivian has her own baggage to carry as we learn more about her past and Queen Beatrice looks back on her life’s decisions and marriage hoping to impart wisdom to her son to do better. And let’s not forget the totally revamped character of the Fairy Godmother who is now Fab G, making us laugh—yes, it’s true that even magic has its limits with making high heels comfy— and tap our toes, reveling in the energy.
The music is an element that blows this version of Cinderella out of the water. As the Town Crier (Doc Brown) raps his news to the townspeople, we hear new renditions of Madonna’s “Material Girl” as Vivian and her girls wash clothes, dreaming of a better, richer future. The list goes on and on with great music like Earth Wind and Fire’s “You’re A Shining Star,” The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” as a background for the ballroom dance, or Ed Sheeran’s “You Look Perfect.” Every song is perfectly placed to help propel the story, augmented by finely-tuned choreography that is simply mesmerizing.
What Cannon imbues into the script that was sorely lacking in the animated version is humor. This is laugh out loud funny thanks to the comedic abilities of James Cordon, Billy Porter, Pierce Brosnan and the relative newcomer Tallulah Grieve. “Cinderella” has found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (or was that Rumpelstiltskin?) with an updated bold story, eye-catching costuming and set design, captivating singing and dancing, and vibrant characters that actually develop.
While most of the live-action Disney remakes are nothing more than that, “Cinderella” daringly takes us down a new path and what a visual spectacle it is for both kids and adults.