The entire production feels rushed. The costumes aren’t very good either, especially the dresses Ella creates. They are not bad, but they are unremarkable and don’t seem to be too complex. Robert buys a dress from Ella, and a big show is made of its quality and design. The problem is that it could be interchanged with anything the stepsisters wear or one of the guests at the ball and look right at home. None of the poor aesthetic choices by costume designer Ellen Mirojnick aid in establishing the time or place; it’ vaguely Medieval fantasy that could be easily confused for the god-awful but still better than this Ella Enchanted (yet another version of Cinderella) or The Polar Bear King.
But, as long as the songs and the choreography are great, Cinderella could still be worth a watch; it just wouldn’t be a slamdunk. Sadly, that is not the case here. It is a jukebox musical with a few original songs. Menzel’s big number, a cover of “Material Girl,” is poorly arranged and feels superfluous at best, though she sings her heart out. Plus, the “dance routine,” a phrase I use loosely here, is so atrocious I’m betting that they forgot to choreograph it. This is emblematic of every song — overly produced, poorly staged, often feeling shoehorned in.
“…Menzel owns every scene she’s in.”
Song-wise, the gravest of sinners is “One In A Million,” which Cabello co-wrote for the film. Aside from having virtually no hook and several odd tempo changes, meaning it never is given a chance to stick in your head, it is horribly sung by the lead. At several points in the song, her voice becomes warbly and noticeably strained. If this was a choice to convey desperation, it does not work, as “One In A Million” is an upbeat number about achieving one’s dreams. So why is Ella desperate when singing it? The other option is that Cabello wrote a song entirely out of her range, and she’s straining her voice to try and reach those notes.
However, Cinderella is not devoid of positives. Galitzine is charming and is the second-best singer in the entire cast (behind Menzel, of course). He is a much-needed shot of life and energy into the proceedings. Grieve’s comedic timing and droll delivery of tedious government work and implementation plans are genuinely funny. Despite being underserved by poor scripting and story structure, Menzel owns every scene she’s in. A heart-to-heart with Ella works because the actor is selling it with all she’s got, not because it makes (it doesn’t).
You know how The Asylum is infamous for their mockbusters of big studio tentpole titles (Transformers versus Transmorphers)? Well, Amazon Prime’s Cinderella is a mockbuster of Disney. I’m sorry, scratch that. It’s poorly ripping off Disney Channel productions such as Descendants and High School Musical but without the charm, polish, or style that carried those to become hits with several sequels/spin-offs. While some of the acting is good, for the most part, the actors flounder, struggling to know what to do. This is especially true of Cabello, whose vocal talents are wasted at every turn with songs out of her range and a meek screen presence that does nothing to endear the audience to the character. What was the point of this?
"…poorly ripping off Disney Channel productions..."