Writer-director Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”) makes the most significant push toward a more modern Cinderella by dispensing with the notion that finding her prince (Nicholas Galitzine) will solve all of the protagonist’s problems. Instead, Cabello’s mistreated stepdaughter (Ella, really, but never mind) yearns to open a dress shop, a business option not available to women in her kingdom despite all the 1980s/’90s-era singing and dancing that people do there.
This “Cinderella” also brings more nuance to the wicked stepmother (Idina Menzel), whose pressure on her daughters and even Cinderella to “marry rich” comes from painful lessons in her past. The advice proves most beneficial when Menzel gets to unleash her powerful pipes on Madonna’s “Material Girl,” while Cinderella knocks off Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” and the prince takes on Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”
Another fresh wrinkle sees the unambitious prince dismissed as the “idiot son” of the king and queen (Pierce Brosnan, not singing after his “Mamma Mia!” experience, and Minnie Driver), whose daughter (Tallulah Greive) doesn’t rank in the line of succession but has a better-developed head for the demands of governing.
While Disney’s animated “Cinderella” remains the most iconic, there have obviously been plenty of takes on the story, including Disney’s 2015 live-action version starring Lily James and the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical adapted into a hugely popular TV movie starring Brandy, which ABC aired in 1997.
Ultimately, though, the fairy-tale framework works against efforts to modernize the story, yielding a movie that appears designed to trade off the “Cinderella” name and the pop-star appeal of Cabello, who the camera lovingly follows as she saunters through a series of impressively big and elaborate sets.
Still, it’s possible to allow that “Cinderella” has its heart in the right place without concluding that the movie works. Credit where it’s due for trying to squeeze the material into some new clothes, but hoping isn’t enough to make the shoe fit.
“Cinderella” premieres Sept. 3 on Amazon.