"Once upon a time," starting a movie with that phrase was acceptable.
Now, it’s a tell-tale sign of a film with no greater aspirations than being a shoddy reworking of a story that came before it. Naturally, Amazon’s "Cinderella" started off with those very words in a narrative passage as annoying as it was uninspired.
But if "Cinderella" had just stuck to fairy-tale cliches and made minor tweaks to modernize the plot, I would’ve understood. With the cacophony of movie remakes, reboots and sequels continuously making their way into the movie market, it would've made sense.
Instead, the team behind this movie decided to lean all the way in, as though they were actively looking for ways to make it as unoriginal as possible.
My mind turns immediately to the music.
Almost every number in this musical was a cover of another song. Their execution falls flat on its face, with the ridiculously commercial-sounding pop adaptations of classics like Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and modern love songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” — blowing any meaning those songs used to have up into smithereens.
To the film’s credit, there are a few original numbers clumsily thrown in alongside the, again, ghastly covers. Yet, “original” is a bit of a stretch considering half of these are rap numbers by the Town Crier (Doc Brown) that sound suspiciously similar to the music in "Hamilton."
Each song was made even worse by the unmistakable sound of pitch correction, which was very poorly concealed. Everyone’s voice had an aggressively processed sound, to the point where they didn’t even sound human at times — except Idina Menzel, who doesn’t sound human only because she’s so ridiculously talented.
The music is accompanied by very flamboyant but ultimately hollow dance routines that can at best be described as “messy” and “chaotic.”
The writing was horrendous. The jokes were strained. The dialogue was hard to follow.
The actors were reaching for punchlines the writers must have left on the cutting room floor, all while sounding like thesauruses because of the needless insertion of complex words.
Though the intention of the film, surely, was to make the characters in the fairy tale more three-dimensional. They failed miserably.
While they did give Cinderella an additional sliver of character development by turning her into an aspiring fashion designer, the majority of the film’s bloated runtime focused on her desire to go to the ball.
Naturally, all of the performances in this movie were forgettable at best — with the exception of maybe Billy Porter, whose lively re-imagination of the Fairy Godmother character (dubbed, in this film, the “Fabulous Godmother”) was actually interesting for the seven minutes of screen time he was given.
Camila Cabello’s portrayal of the titular character was mediocre. Nicholas Galitzine was woeful as Prince Robert. Idina Menzel was flat as the evil stepmother. Pierce Brosnan was so bad it almost seemed intentional. James Corden … well, need I say more?
From a technical standpoint, this movie was about as impressive as a Disney Channel Original Movie — and not one of the good ones.
Whether it was leaving a third of a character’s head off the screen for no reason or having the camera bob up and down mid-shot, the directing left a lot to be desired. The editing was also terrible, with a barrage of quick, pointless cuts making it almost impossible for even one scene in the movie to be cohesive.
Even the lip dubbing was bad, with a particularly egregious mistake being made at the 41-minute mark, where the sound and the shape of Cabello’s lips simply did not line up.
Nothing went right. Everything went wrong.
Once upon a time … there was a world where this movie didn’t exist. If only we could still be living in it.
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