In Hollywood, what’s old is new again, it seems, with everything from “Sex and the City” to “Dexter” to “The Wonder Years” making much-heralded returns to the small screen. Even fairy tales aren’t immune from the reboot treatment as evidenced by Amazon Studios’ recent release of a live-action “Cinderella” adaptation. The film is the latest in a long line of iterations of the classic yarn about a kindhearted girl forced into servitude by her evil stepfamily who eventually catches the eye of a local prince. “Once” upon a time? Not so much! But the streamer manages to put its own stamp on the age-old story.
This time around, our heroine’s name is Ella (Camila Cabello, in her feature film debut), though her stepsisters call her “Cinderella” because, as narrator/Fab G (Billy Porter) points out, “Her skin was often besmirched by cinders.” Headstrong and determined, she has no interest in marrying a prince or attending a ball, but instead dreams of becoming a dress designer with her own store in the village. Fate, of course, intervenes, intertwining her path with that of Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) and a romance ensues.
A surprisingly fresh and fun take on the tale, the film is interspersed throughout with an enjoyable array of pop songs. It is to the strains of Madonna’s “Material Girl” that Idina Menzel’s evil stepmother character, Vivian, humorously teaches her daughters the importance of marrying up. The vibrant soundtrack is to be expected considering “Cinderella” was written and directed by Kay Cannon, who penned all three “Pitch Perfect” movies.
Though the storyline has been somewhat modernized, the backdrop remains purely medieval. Set in a charming kingdom with rolling green hillsides, meandering roadways and quaint cottages, the scenery looks like something, well, out of a fairy tale. And at the center of it all is the massive turreted castle where Prince Robert lives with his parents, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) and Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver), and younger sister, Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive).
Shot entirely in the U.K., the Royal Family’s elegant homestead is an amalgamation of several different spots, the most prominent of which is Waddesdon Manor, a sprawling estate located about 60 miles northwest of London in Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire.