The modern movie critic often doubles as a woke warrior.
Many critics factor a film’s diversity score into their reviews along with other factors that have little, or nothing, to do with artistic integrity.
One infamous example?
A major critic slammed “Kin,” a teen vs. aliens thriller co-starring Dennis Quaid, because it put an intergalactic gun in the protagonists’ hands. Even the most progressive movies are often deemed insufficiently woke by select critics.
Yet the latest take on “Cinderella,” bound for Amazon Prime, is being shredded for being … too woke. The film boasts a brutal 37 percent “rotten” score at RottenTomatoes.com hours before its digital release.
Let’s start with the Associated Press review of the musical, which stars Camila Cabello as the title character. The pop star delivers a different kind of fairy tale heroine, an empowered soul who rejects the “princess” label outright.
The AP critic called the film, featuring Billy Porter as the updated take on a Fairy Godmother archetype, a woke misfire.
A feminist recasting of the familiar story is welcome, of course, but the screenplay focuses so insistently on its female-empowering message that it feels at times like we’re just getting hit over the head with it.
Over at The Sydney Morning Herald, the in-house critic proved kinder, but she, too, felt bowled over by the messaging.
It rollicks along with a lot of help from the songs, which lift the spirits as well as lending pace to the plot but the insistence of the message-making means Cinderella and her Prince fall short of making magic together.
NPR, a reliably woke news outlet, started its review with this warning:
What happens when you throw a ton of great talent at a listless idea?
Syndicated critic Katie Walsh, a reliably progressive voice in critics circles, wasn’t impressed, either.
With such a great cast, it’s disappointing that it feels like none of the side characters get much to do, existing as stereotypes or stand-ins, spouting wink wink feminist aphorisms, you go girl sentiments and therapy-speak confessions about their motivation. It’s underwritten yet overstuffed with songs, and the production itself feels chintzy and airless.
For some critics, this woke reboot isn’t woke enough. The Daily Telegraph warned for all its progressive posturing it still pledges allegiance to capitalism.
The far-Left Hollywood Reporter suggests its feminist trappings are suddenly out of date.
Cinderella suffers from a host of problems, but its real curse is terrible timing. If this most recent reboot, with its heavy-handed feminist messaging, had been released decades ago, it might have stood a chance at being subversive. But it’s 2021, and additions to the crowded and underwhelming field of #girlboss narratives require a bit more style and depth to keep even young audiences engaged.
Did the critic just admit that Hollywood’s woke storytelling is … problematic?
The San Francisco Chronicle isn’t impressed, either, taking a meaty swipe at the film’s reimagined approach.
The appeal of fairy tales isn’t just their fantasy but also their danger. Their villains are evil through and through, and violence could truly befall their heroes. But here, where even the stepmother has a backstory, Cannon seems intent not just on trying to blot out the original’s sexism but also its mystery. In trying to be safe and copacetic with modern sensibilities, this “Cinderella” neuters itself.
Perhaps the oddest wrinkle to the reviews? Slant complained that “Cinderella” isn’t deferential to fairy tales, a favorite target for the woke community.
At one point, when Cinderella is transforming into a princess for the ball and remarking on the process, her Fairy Godmother (Billy Porter) mentions that she should let the magic moment happen and not ruin it with “reason.” This is a lesson that the film should’ve taken to heart, since this Cinderella doesn’t just display a subversive attitude toward fairy tales; it’s also contemptuous of them.
The Polygon.com review may top them all.
The site’s critic alternately slams the movie for being too woke for its own good while suggesting it’s problematic.
Confusing? Of course.
The reviewer says the film’s girl power messaging is “vintage,” for starters. Next the film is attacked for embracing capitalism. Next, one of the movie’s wokest figures is mocked without restraint.
Lucky for the kingdom, his sister Princess Gwen (a plucky Tallulah Greive) is constantly spouting progressive proposals (Sustainable energy! Welfare programs!) when she isn’t lurking about the castle, scrounging for a literal “seat at the table.” However, that’s all she does. She’s a one-note joke, but it’s funnier that she’s meant to be inspiring.
That capitalism thread is too much to tolerate, according to Polygon. That means “Cinderella” isn’t work enough.
Lip service about feminism abounds in Cannon’s script, with speeches about self-love, social justice, and standing up to men in power. But the narrative undercuts these platitudes. Cinderella’s success as a dressmaker comes because of her proximity to wealth.
We’ll never know “Cinderella’s” box office-like performance, since it’s an Amazon Prime product, and streaming platforms aren’t as transparent as movie studios in our post-pandemic age.