Cinderella Parent Guide
The movie's relentless lecturing is so preachy that all the fun drains away.
Parent Movie Review
We all think we know Cinderella – the sweetly obedient girl who lives with her bullying stepmother (Idina Menzel) and insecure stepsisters (Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer). Be prepared: this movie does not feature the passive girl of yore. This Cinderella (Camila Cabello) wants to be a dressmaker and she’s doing everything she can to make her dreams come true. Sketched designs cover the cellar walls and gowns take shape on dress forms. When a handsome young man persuades her to attend an upcoming royal ball, the big draw for her is the chance to meet potential clients. But Cinderella doesn’t know that the man urging her to come has ulterior motives…
Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is desperate to spend time with the spunky commoner who attracted his attention by sassing his father, stuffy King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan). Convinced that this girl is the bride he’s dreamed of, he plans to sweep her off her feet at the ball. But Cinderella isn’t sure that trading the narrow walls of a cellar for a gilded palace cage is an upgrade.
This plot could be a fun twist on the story, but Cinderella is less a fairytale and more a feminist fable. The movie relentlessly hammers home its message, to the point that the moral overwhelms the plot. And that’s unfortunate. I believe wholeheartedly in gender equality but even I got sick of the script’s hammer blows. When policy wonk Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive) complained that her father wouldn’t even give her “a seat at the table”, I cringed. When I saw palace maids dressed in the red dresses and white caps of dystopian handmaids, I rolled my eyes. And when Queen Beatrice (Minnie Driver) delivered a polemic against unchecked male power, I sighed. The maxim for successful writing, “show don’t tell”, is repeatedly ignored in Cinderella, to the point that the story feels preachy and the fun drains away.
Relentless lecturing is only the most glaring of the film’s flaws. The costumes are a mishmash of styles and historical eras that look confused rather than eclectic. The overall effect is of a wardrobe purchased at a thrift store and thrown randomly at the cast. The music is also weak, with voices that too often sound auto-tuned and rap numbers that don’t really gel. There’s even a gospel choir which acts like a Greek chorus – I love cultural diversity but this is just plain weird. The movie is at least half an hour too long and the excessive song and dance numbers account for much of that bloat.
Also off-putting is the film’s negative content. I was surprised by the profanity in the movie – eight terms of deity and some minor crude language – but I was even more startled by the script’s sexual innuendo. Sex is discussed in coded language as is male genitalia, which is not the norm for a kid’s film. Parents with traditional views of sexuality will also be unhappy with the cross-dressing Fabulous Godmother (Billy Porter), although those with contemporary attitudes might find the campy performance entertaining.
Cinderella’s failures are all the more frustrating because a reworking of the tale is long overdue – and having a Latina Cinderella headlining a diverse cast is icing on the cake. Generations of kids have idolized the sweet passive girl whose problems are solved when she marries a prince. A story that allows her to chase her own dreams and have control over her fate really is a happily ever after ending.Directed by Kay Cannon. Starring Camila Cabello, Idina Menzel, and Nicholas Galitzine. Running time: 113 minutes. Theatrical release September 3, 2021. Updated September 2, 2021
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Rating & Content Info
Why is Cinderella rated PG? Cinderella is rated PG by the MPAA for suggestive material and language.
Violence: Friends tussle with each other. A woman deliberately destroys someone’s dress. A woman grabs someone by the ear and threatens her. A person smashes and destroys a musical instrument. A woman is driven off to marry a man against her will.
Sexual Content: There is a coded mention of having sex for procreation and a slighting comment about a man’s genitals. A main character is a man who cross dresses as a woman. A woman wears a strapless dress that exposes a fair bit of cleavage. Women tell a man they want to have his baby. There are some suggestive dance moves. There is reference to male genitalia as being “front tails”. A man and woman embrace and kiss.
Profanity: There are eight terms of deity and a minor profanity in the film. A slang term for a prostitute is used as is a substitute for a sexual expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A character mentions having been drunk for several days. A main character holds a glass of wine.
Page last updated September 2, 2021
Cinderella Parents' Guide
Why doesn’t Cinderella want to live in the palace? Why does she “choose me”? How does the prince respond to her rejection? How does it affect his perspective on his life? How does choosing himself benefit their relationship? Are Cinderella and Prince Robert being selfish or are do their choices make their relationship healthier? Why or why not?
What social issues are raised in this movie? Do you think their presence makes the movie more or less interesting? What political issues interest you? If you were Princess Gwen, what do you think you would focus on? What would you do if you governed the country where you live?
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Cinderella fans have lots to choose from if they want to get lost in versions of the tale. Cinder by Marissa Meyer puts a sci-fi spin on the story. In Mechanica, the familiar tale is retold by Betsy Cornwell with a steampunk twist. Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted gives a reason for Ella’s self-harming obedience: she’s been cursed by a fairy. Margaret Peterson Haddix tells the story of what happens after the prince’s proposal in Just Ella. Hint: Ella decides that palace living isn’t for her. In Kate Stradling’s Soot and Slipper, Eugenie Pluterra discovers that not only is she acting as the family servant, everyone believes that’s who she really is. E.L. Tenenbaum takes the story on a very dark road in End of Ever After: A Cinderella Retelling. In this version, Cinderella discovers that her prince is the opposite of charming and is actually a danger to his subjects. Donna Jo Napoli takes the traditional tale to Asia in Bound, where a stepmother mutilates her own daughter’s feet to ensure a “good marriage”.
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The classic Cinderella movies are Disney’s original 1950 animated film and the 2015 “have courage and be kind” live action version. Disney has also produced a sequel featuring a more active heroine in Cinderella III: A Twist in Time.Drew Barrymore plays a spunky Cinderella who refuses to be a passive victim in Ever After. In Ella Enchanted, the protagonist obeys her stepmother because she has no choice: a fairy cursed her with the “gift” of obedience. When she falls in love with the prince, she realizes that she puts him and the kingdom in danger. The familiar tale takes on a modern twist in A Cinderella Story, which is set in California in the early 2000s.