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Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997) was Disney's first live action take on Cinderella with a plethora of starts to help them out. We all know the story of Cinderella, so I don't really have to describe the plot points for this one.
For this movie, Cinderella is played by the R&B star Brandy. Her fairy godmother was Whitney Houston. This was a great idea, but some of the acting is a little wooden. It's not all bad though. The characters were probably instructed to ham it up for the camera and that they did. They had tons of stars in this one including Jason Alexander and Whoopi Goldberg. I found the casting of this ensemble actually very refreshing, especially knowing that this movie had come out back in 1997.
I knew representation of different cultures and races in entertainment was acknowledged back in the 90s, but I didn't realize there was such a refreshingly casted Disney film at the time. This was definitely a movie way before its time. I mean they have an Asian male romantic lead. With the movie Crazy Rich Asians, you'd think that having an Asian male romantic lead was a foreign thought up until recently. The funny thing though, the actor who plays the prince is played by Paolo Montalban. If you look at what he looks like in the movie, you'd swear he looks identical to Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians. I'm an Asian male and I even think they look alike.
Disney not only tackled the Asian male romantic lead controversy, but they also fought stereotyped black female romantic leads. Brandy played a true Cinderella. The girl that's been ostracized by her family with little self-confidence in herself. They opted not to give her any stereotypical black female tropes to her character. Whitney Houston was written nicely as well. All of the characters were played very well into the Cinderella story and didn't throw a wrench into the story. The audience will still fall into the story, and have fun with the singing and dancing performed by all of the talented performers.
Looking back at this movie, I have to say that it was way ahead of its time. I think maybe some people back in those days wouldn't be able to get over the changes that they did for this movie. They didn't really explain how an Asian prince can have a black mother and a white father, and really, they shouldn't have to. That's not important in the story, it's a fairy tale, but some people might not be able to get over it. Today, I think more people can take this concept at face value and really appreciate what Disney did with the cast. The movie probably didn't do so well because after this movie, I don't think Disney made as many movies with a cast this diverse. I really wish they did because it feels fresh and original and I know a lot of kids would enjoy this because they would be able to relate to the characters a little more.
Overall, I think this movie gets a 7 out of 10 for me. It's largely enjoyable and way ahead of its time. The only reason why the movie lost points with me is because of the low production value of the film and some of the over-the-top acting. Some of the special effects really threw me off because they were also pretty bad. Back in the day, I can see how they looked like they were state of the art. Maybe I viewed this movie at the wrong time, but to today's standards, it's not up to par. I get it, it's a children's movie, and so I didn't take too many points off for the over the top performances. The dance numbers were really well done and the songs were good, but not totally memorable for me. It's something that kids can enjoy. I would prefer parents to show this movie over any other version of Cinderella out there.