A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish - 2019
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
When your first line of dialogue (narration aside) is, “My balls! My balls! Hold my balls!” I genuinely can’t tell whether you should be rewarded or punished. On one hand, it’s a super cheap joke, and the reveal of the Christmas baubles is incredibly predictable, but on the other hand, I was playing Super Mario Maker on my 3DS at the time, and boy, did it get my attention.
Being the fifth film in the Cinderella Story franchise (I thought it was the third, but I was two off), this film has a lot to live up to…for someone, I’m sure, but not me, because I’m still not sure whether I’ve seen the first film or not. I’m going to go ahead and assume there is no continuity between films and just review this one blind.
Have you read or seen Cinderella? Yup, it’s that. But modern. Looking at the IMDb page for each of the five films, they all just seem to be various modern takes on a classic story; A Cinderella Story has Hilary Duff lose her phone, Another Cinderella Story has Selena Gomez lose her Zune (clearly that iPod trend was never gonna catch on), Once Upon a Song is about a performing arts school, If The Shoe Fits (great title) seems to be a bad Grease rip-off based on the poster, and Christmas Wish is, surprise surprise, Cinderella at Christmas.
Now, I don’t know about the first one (I genuinely can’t remember if I’ve seen it or not), but weirdly enough, the rest appear be to musicals. This one in particular is all about an orphan, Christmas-gram performer, Kat Decker, who wants to be a famous musician but is stuck with (surprise surprise) a genuinely and ridiculously evil step-mother and step-sisters. Fate would have it, that within two minutes of narrating her exact motivations for the story, Kat walks head-first into handsome and famous and SECRET BAND MANAGER, Dom Wintergarden, who also SECRETLY works with her, is SECRETLY her childhood friend and is openly the most famous and handsome boy in town.
It’s pretty ridiculous the lengths they go to, to hide the identities. I mean, at first, I get why she doesn’t recognise him at work, because he plays Santa; he has a beard and hair on. But he must have facial aphasia or something, because she’s just wearing a pink wig and has pointy ears; he’s just an idiot. Run Kat, run! One day you’ll get a haircut and he won’t know who you are anymore!
As standard and formulaic as the Cinderella formula is, I did like that they added the extra depth of her being secretly linked to a famous family. It’s the only real thing that makes it different, with every other update being kind of superficial. I can’t exactly tell what the glass slipper was meant to be. I guess it's the viral video of her walking into him? But then after that incident is revealed, she leaves her song book behind? And he has her face, he just doesn’t have her name. He works with her for heaven's sake, I just don’t understand what is meant to be at stake?
This is a Christmas movie. And this is the last time I have to write that in a while, hopefully.
But legitimately, I’m surprised at how well Christmas and Cinderella work together. The themes explored are so similar, I’m surprised it’s never been done before. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing deep or surprising here, it’s just that the pair are joined so well together, I can’t help but give it props!
It being a musical, and having so much focus on Kat’s voice and songs, it would’ve been better if the whole “glass slipper” thing, was that he heard her sing...but this is a straight to Netflix movie.
It even takes away the uncomfortable catfish scenario that the original has, as she’s not really transformed. She’s just either at work or not, and Dom can’t recognise anyone in their work uniform.
There’s no Hilary Duff money put into this, and that’s clear from the distinct lack of Hilary Duff. There isn't even Selena Gomez money in this, as seen by the lack of Selena Gomez.
This has Laura Marano money. I don’t know what that means, but it’s definitely straight to Netflix. What I can say is that it looks like it’s Christmas. I believed that much. And that’s better than some.
On the other hand, I'm a credits snob; a bad credit sequence can ruin a movie for me. This movie put effort into their opening credits. It’s a musical number, there’s dancing, and there are little glittery transitions. However, their ending credits are just written in black sans-serif font like Arial or Calibri. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they didn’t even distinguish the role from the person in any way and it’s the easiest thing to do: just make the person's name bold, or all caps, or slightly bigger, or just anything to let us know that they are important. Unfortunately though, Grace Alvarez is left unceremoniously the same font, size and style as her role, "Set Decorator". Think of Grace next time, credit people. Think of Grace.
I have a pet peeve when it comes to musicals, and that’s when musicals just don’t commit to being a musical. Go big or go home, I say. And A Cinderalla Story: Christmas Wish should go home. Some musicals do that thing where the music is sold by having the characters being musicians, so you can suspend your disbelief that they are singing out of nowhere. Some musicals have the musical numbers as dream sequences or something. Both of these are weak-sauce excuses. But if it’s consistent, then at least I can accept that the filmmakers are weak-sauce and enjoy the movie. Then you have movies like this, where they can’t decide which to go for. One song is a dream, several are diegetic songs that Kat is singing on stage, but then some are real musical style, where characters just break out into song. All of that, is probably just a me thing. Can You Feel the Love Tonight still ticks me off when it happens in The Lion King (What? Are you too good to sing now that you’re Matthew Broderick!?)
The characters are more cartoonish than the Disney cartoon itself: Prince Charming is clearly an idiot, our Cinderella is so goofy I’m surprised she didn’t “guhyuck!”, and the Fairy Godmother best friend is honestly TOO supportive (if anyone were this helpful to me, I would assume they were planning to skin me and wear my flesh like a suit). Finally, the evil step family are incredibly over the top, and I kind of love it. I’m not even mad when they do heinous things to Kat, I’m just amazed these performances are happening in front of my eyes.
If you’re a thirteen-year-old, or a massive fan of this franchise, or even someone who knows the franchise well enough to know this is the fifth film, then I don’t doubt you’ll have a fun time. It’s harmless, if not stupid, and has inspired me to write my own A Cinderella Story:
In mine, the Cinderella character is a genuinely ugly person for once, stuck with their evil step family and the only way to escape is through a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game. There they find love, but when things get too real, they run and hide, knowing that they are too ugly to ever have someone fall in love with them. The prince character only has Cinderella's avatar to go from, so they, I dunno, hire the guys from Catfish to find Cinderella or something, and then Catfish happens. Good times. The prince falls in love with Cinderella because they knew who they were on the inside, not what they look like. It’s called A Cinderalla Story: Catfish.
10/10 for me