Let’s Talk About Sneakerella, Then Rank Previous Adaptations of The Classic Fairy Tale
We're talking 1997 to 2021.
Of the many announcements that emerged on Disney+ day, from Marvel to Star Wars, also incoming are adaptions of popular stories like The Spiderwick Chronicles, Rosaline (Romeo and Juliet, but with a new character’s perspective), and the most discussed: the latest take on Cinderella, Sneakerella.
The first big majority-Black cast Cinderella (the iconic 1997 Brandy version was multi-racial) centers on sneaker culture and also gender-swaps Cinderella. El, played by Chosen Jacobs (It), is an aspiring shoe designer vying for the attention of the King Family—who are basically sneaker royalty. The film also stars Lexi Underwood (from Little Fires Everywhere) as Kira King and Lovina Yavari (The Boys) as Sneaker Girl.
While this does look cute and definitely for The Youths (it’s giving DCOM, with a much bigger budget, vibes), I’m also not holding my breath for it to become a classic. For one back-to-back (first Amazon now Disney) Cinderella movies featuring a lead wanting to be a designer might work against it. It is cool that they have El interested in art, though, and didn’t try to overcompensate a gender swap with a stereotypical dude-bro hobby.
Secondly (and most importantly), a lot of the behind-the-scenes creatives here are white. The story is by actor George Gore II, but all the other writers, the director, cinematographer, editor, and more are white. Having mostly a behind-the-scenes Black crew for a movie starring mostly Black characters wouldn’t mean it would automatically be great, but it would show beyond surface-level diversity.
Ranking all the other Cinderellas
Regardless of how Sneakerella turns out, in honor of the newest edition of a Cinderella adaptation, I’m going to rank several of the most popular Cinderella adaptations of the last three decades. In the last few months, I’ve rewatched many of these, so this ranking isn’t based on some memories from decades ago; this is fresh. My evaluation is based on entertainment value, how they hold up, and what they do differently than the 1950 animated movie.
A few things before I ruffle some feathers … feel free to disagree and be wrong with your disapproval of my rankings. I didn’t include some Dollar General bargain bin Cinderella adaptations, and I’m sure I missed some big ones, too. Despite each of their issues, I will say this: The one consistent win in each film is the casting of the stepmother.
The writing wasn’t always there, but the likes of Idina Menzel, Bernadette Peters, Angelica Houston, Jennifer Coolidge, Cate Blanchett, and Jane Lynch all killed it. I’m not sure if El’s parental figure from the Sneakerella trailer will fill this role, but if so, he’s got some big shoes to fill.
I could go on and on about how much I dislike Camila Cabello for her racist comments about her then-band mate Normani, the terrible marketing stunts, or about how James Corden doesn’t need to be in every Hollywood musical, but honestly, there is enough to hate on within the context of the film.
The girl-bossification of Cinderella was shallow, and it made the Prince’s sister a joke even though she was always right?!? There was more chemistry between the prince and one of his boys than between him and Cinderella. Cinderella is treated so badly, but has the biggest art space for no reason, and Cabello doesn’t have the range, acting-wise or vocally, for this role.
The only thing that kept this above a one-star was half of the songs were well performed or creative. Most of the casting was great (including the prince), except for Cabello and Corden with his penis jokes. Also, at least there was consistency in choosing to end Cabello’s big movie with a JLo song (another famous Latina who no one cares said the N-word).
Another Cinderella Story (2008)
As a TV adaptation, this already had a strained budget. It was okay—mid-tier. I’ll say this, though: It was one of few adaptations with a bigger star (Selena Gomez in 2008) that actually looked to remix the original premise more—sometimes to the point where it felt like I was watching two or three different movies? Because of this, though, the pacing felt off due to certain plot beats in the Cinderella story hitting sooner than expected.
Going in hopeful, but I’m expecting Sneakerella to rest somewhere between this and the next entry on the list.
This movie was beautiful and had a solid cast, but was kinda forgettable. It didn’t add much newness to the Cinderella canon, but it did lean into the themes of kindness from the original animated Disney film. The only issue I had with the film was that it was very, very white. Like, the only people of color were an advisor to the prince (the Black best friend) and the “worldly” guest from the ball.
Also, the sisters were more sexualized to contrast Ella more and make her more “pure,” which, with the lack of diversity, was more unsettling. Usually, the stepsisters (or at least one of the two) are just thirstier for the prince, whereas they really tried to vilify them with costume cues in this adaptation.
I didn’t count this against this version, but the “midnight rule” was too loose. It was like 5 minutes! For a pretty faithful retelling, they gave wiggle room on one of the most important parts.
A Cinderella Story (2004)
I really started this thinking it would compete with number one. It had an awesome cast (Hillary Duff, Regina King, and Jennifer Coolidge!) and that nostalgic remake-it-but-put-it-in-high-school flavor, but there were too many red flags to ignore.
Some of these flags came with the territory, like the “I’m not like other girls” trope and the like. Others, not so much. For example, there was rampant homophobia I had missed on my first few watches because, I guess, I watched the censored version?!? King’s role as the stand-in fairy godmother was heartwarming, but teetered too close the magical negro trope.
Ever After (1998)
This is the movie that the 2021 Amazon Cabello film tried to be (except this wasn’t a musical). It did I’m-not-like-other-girls, however combined that with Cinderella’s kindness in a way it wasn’t weaponized. Barrymore was a darling, and this film is just so cute. While it was adorable, it felt like there were real stakes to the situation rather than just “you’ll do domestic work the rest of your life for ungrateful people.”
The main hang-up with this film is the vilification of the Romani people. While this is par for the course regarding fairy tales from Europe, it was just gross. They appear to try to sexually assault her and are shown as cunning thieves.
This adaptation is the only one on the list that came from a stage first (Rodgers and Hammerstein), and it feels like that in all the best ways, from songs to costuming. Brandy’s mousy demeanor worked well as Cinderella, but her chemistry with Paolo Montalbán had everyone wanting to be them. The whole cast, both newcomers and household names, gave excellent performances.
(Image: Dinsey+ and Alyssa Shotwell.)
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