Cinderella (2021) was an infuriating mistake

Camila Cabello plays ‘Ella’ in a disappointing rendition of Cinderella

Amazon Studios

Camila Cabello plays ‘Ella’ in a disappointing rendition of Cinderella

Since the release of the original Cinderella story in 1634, there have been approximately eight billion movie renditions of the tale. Some build on the classic with a compelling plot and characters, and others burn in a pit of hell custom-made for these horrible adaptations. Cinderella (2021) is the latter.

Like those before her, Cinderella (2021) follows the Cinderella storyline—evil stepmother, can’t go to the ball, poofed into a gown, stroke of midnight, glass slipper, happily-ever-after, you get the gist. This rendition’s twist, however, sees Cinderella, or Ella, as an aspiring dressmaker in a world where a woman’s only job is to get married and die. The movie also draws from pop culture with modern costumes and colloquialisms.

With a standard premise, Cinderella (2021) could have been a hit. Unfortunately, it took a tumble from the get-go and broke all its bones on the way out. As soon as the first musical number started, I knew it was going to be a long two hours because the original songs are entirely forgettable. Every one sounds alike, with peppy pop music brought to you by Ella’s (Camila Cabello) clearly autotuned voice. It wasn’t just Cabello—everything was autotuned to the point where it was hard to enjoy the music because of how fake it sounded. Even Broadway actress Idina Menzel, who played the stepmother, barely stood out. The songs that weren’t movie originals, like Somebody to Love by Queen and Material World by Tracey Chapman, stood out only because they’re enjoyable on their own. For a musical, the music left much to be desired.

So the music sucked, I hear you saying, but maybe the acting and character building will make up for it? To that I say: what character building? Tell me where I can find a single personality in this entire movie. Even Ella, the main character, is lacking in characteristics other than girl boss, quirky, and what I like to call “adorably awkward female protagonist syndrome.” She fits the “not like other girls” archetype to a T, though thankfully refrains from putting down everyone around her. To make matters worse, Cabello’s line delivery is lackluster and her body language is awkward, and not in the way you’d want an awkward character to act. Half the time I can’t tell if she’s trying to be quirky and isn’t pulling it off or if she genuinely doesn’t know what to do with her arms. There are other bad performances too, but their characters are so forgettable that I won’t include them.

One of the worst offenders in this movie is the cinematography. Never before have I been so aggravated by a director’s camera choices. For whatever reason, nearly every camera shot is a close-up of a character’s face. Even with longer shots, characters are filmed from halfway behind the shoulders of others and zoomed in as much as possible. For example, if one character handed something to another, the object would be out of the shot. This happened at least four times. I counted. Is it too much to ask to see the plot of the movie I paid to watch? These close-ups are uncomfortable to sit through over and over, especially on a theatre screen. It got to the point where if the camera shot even from the waist up, I felt euphoria at being able to see so much. If I wanted to stare at Cabello’s face for two hours, I’d clear my schedule to look her up on Google.

And the moldy cherry on top is the comedy, or lack thereof. The only way I can describe the “comedy” in this movie is that an attempt was made. About every two minutes, in between the boring songs, a character makes a joke. I barely laughed. I don’t want to listen to Cabello stammering out a single sentence for an uncomfortably long time and I don’t want to listen to mice-turned-humans talking about how excited they are to pee again so they can use their “front tails.” If I hadn’t wanted to walk out of the theatre before the mouse scene, this would have been the moment to do me in.

And now, the infuriating garbage pit that made me want to carve my skull with a ladle: the poorly executed feminism. Typically, there is nothing wrong with including feminism in film, but this movie does a horrific job of it. Most of it consists of women complaining to men about not having rights, and those men instantly changing their tune after a life of being sexist. 

Feminism is not about making men look bad. It’s about showing that women are competent and capable. Sexism, typically from men, is a reaction to this competency. If women don’t back up their complaints with action, no matter how valid they are, they can come off as annoying, even to women. For once, I’d like to see women in movies do something that isn’t giving a speech, lecturing men, or standing in solidarity with their fellow girlbosses. Show me that women are powerful and that sexist opinions are invalid. Stop making women complacent complainers. And please stop having them complain about how “his chair is bigger than mine.” There are thousands of more pressing issues.

Cinderella (2021) never should have been filmed. The movie fails at nearly everything it tries to accomplish. I wanted to like it, but with all its negatives, I just can’t. If you must see a modern medieval Cinderella retelling with Somebody to Love by Queen, watch Ella Enchanted instead.