tek's rating: ½

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, on ABC
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Caution: spoilers, I guess.

This aired in 1997, but I didn't get a chance to see it until 2022. (I watched it on Disney+ a couple of days after the 25th anniversary of its original airing on ABC.) I really wanted to like it more than I did. I haven't got anything against it. I thought the acting and singing were fine (though some of the songs did nothing for me, I did like others). I've never seen any other version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical (which originated in 1957), so I can't compare the singing to anything, but it was okay. I liked the whole cast. I suppose I was a little bit bored because the story felt so familiar. I read that it was a more feminist take on the fairy tale, but I barely noticed anything like that. (More of that would have been nice.) I did like that Cinderella (played by R&B star Brandy) and Prince Christopher met before the ball, even if they didn't remember each other when they met again (though they did by the end of the movie). I liked that the prince wanted to marry for love instead of merely obligation (though as usual with stories like this, I feel like the main characters fall in love far too quickly and easily). But mostly it just felt like the same story I've seen many times... which doesn't always make it so hard for me to enjoy a movie, so I don't hold that against it, exactly. I don't know, maybe it's the lack of nostalgia, having never seen the movie before. Maybe it's my depression, anxiety, and executive dysfunction interfering with my ability to enjoy things that don't particularly grab me in any way as unique or distinctive. I'm sure many fans of this movie do see it as distinctive in various ways, including the diversity of the cast, which I definitely found refreshing. But the story itself didn't feel particularly fresh to me. Still, it was all okay. I really don't want to give the impression that I didn't like the movie, because I did. Just not as much as I'd hoped I would.

So... it almost doesn't feel worth bothering to explain the plot, because of how familiar it is. But I will, anyway. Cinderella lives with her stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and two stepsisters, Minerva and Calliope, who all treat her like an unappreciated servant. One day she meets Prince Christopher, but doesn't know who he is, since he's dressed like a commoner. Later he returns home, and is chastised by his valet, Lionel (Jason Alexander), for always going out incognito like that. Meanwhile, his parents, Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg) and King Maximillian (Victor Garber), want Christopher to find a wife and produce an heir. The queen is particularly eager for this, though the king seems a bit more relaxed about it, and willing to indulge Christopher's desire to marry for love. Anyway, they plan a ball and invite all the eligible young women in the kingdom. (Of course there are plenty of men there, too. I have no idea who all of them were, but the women mostly had dance partners even when they weren't dancing with the prince.) Um... Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters attend the ball, but leave Cinderella home alone. She meets her fairy godmother (Whitney Houston), who uses her magic to make Cinderella a carriage and gown, and sends her off to the ball, where she meets Christopher (not recognizing him as the man she'd met earlier in the marketplace), and they immediately hit it off. Unfortunately, Cinderella has to leave in a hurry at midnight, as the magic wears off. She leaves behind one of her glass slippers, which the prince subsequently has every young woman in the kingdom try on, in his effort to find her. (As usual, it seems strange that he wouldn't have at least some degree of recognition that most of the women who tried on the slipper definitely weren't the one he was looking for.) But once he finds Cinderella, whom he now recognizes as the woman from the market as well as the the woman from the ball, it almost seems like her trying on the slipper is a formality rather than a necessity. And so they get married and presumably live happily ever after.

That's about it. I hope I'm not forgetting any important details. Oh, I do want to mention that at one point, Lionel sounded jealous that "beautiful women throw themselves" at the prince, but later, at the ball, a beautiful woman (Cinderella's stepmother) throws herself at Lionel, and he doesn't want her. That struck me as ironic, or something. Also, in 2024 the actors who played Cinderella and the Prince in this movie would appear as the same(ish) characters in Descendants: The Rise of Red.

Wonderful World of Disney
genre TV movies index

Cinderella adaptations
movies: Cinderella (1950) * Ever After * A Cinderella Story * Ella Enchanted * Cinderella (2015) * Cinderella (2021)
TV: Faerie Tale Theatre (episode) * Cinderella (1997) * Once Upon a Time (episode)
ensembles: Into the Woods (1991) * The 10th Kingdom * Shrek the Third * Into the Woods (2014) * Once Upon a Time (season 7)