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Film / Cinderella (1997)

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"You didn't need my help. You just thought you did. Believe in yourself, Cinderella, and trust him to love you as you really are."
Fairy Godmother

The Wonderful World of Disney's 1997 film adaptation of Cinderella (Rodgers and Hammerstein), which was in turn an adaptation of the fairy tale of the same name. It starred Brandy as the title character, along with Whitney Houston as both an executive producer and the Fairy Godmother. This version had a slightly more modern feel to it, and featured a multiracial, colorblind cast, along with an added character named Lionel and three other Richard Rodgers songs added to the score.

The film roughly follows the plot of the fairy tale and the musical. With the help of her fairy godmother, the put-upon Cinderella defies her cruel stepmother (Bernadette Peters) to attend a ball, where Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban) is seeking a bride at the behest of his parents (Victor Garber and Whoopi Goldberg). Having previously run into Cinderella at the marketplace, Christopher feels that the beauteous young woman he is drawn to is familiar and wants to get to know her. But the Fairy Godmother's spell only lasts until midnight, and so Cinderella flees the scene, leaving only a single glass slipper...


  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Beauty Equals Goodness is averted since the villain is played by Bernadette Peters.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: The stepmother gets a new song, "Falling in Love With Love", implying she was once deeply in love with her first husband and/or Cinderella's father, but his passing left her heartbroken and bitter and determined to never follow her heart again.
  • Adaptational Context Change: "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" originally followed the First Kiss between Cinderella and Prince Christopher, but this version turns it into buildup to the kiss.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: The Fairy Godmother previously didn't appear until the night of the ball, but here she materializes before the main titles, crooning some of "Impossible" to the viewers.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: The king's and queen's personalities from the 1957 version have been swapped here: now the queen is the bumbling parent, while the king is the more level-headed of the two. The queen is still the one most eager to see their son married and the driving force behind the ball, though.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The stepmother is given several additional Kick the Dog moments toward Cinderella compared to the original, at one point she even goes so far as to insult Cinderella's late father while telling her the prince would never love a common girl like her. Then during the climax she attempts to lock Cinderella in the kitchen to keep her from reuniting with the prince.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The stepsisters are named Calliope and Minerva, instead of Joy and Portia (their original names in the 1957 version) or Prunella and Esmeralda (from the 1965 version).
  • And Starring: The opening credits list Veanne Cox (Calliope) and Natalie Desselle (Minerva) under "Also Starring", and gives Paolo Montalban (Prince Christopher) the "Introducing" treatment.
  • Annoying Laugh: Calliope snorts when she laughs.
  • Anti-Interference Lock Up: Cinderella gets locked in the kitchen by her stepmother when the prince arrives, in an effort to prevent her from revealing herself to him. However, she manages to meet up with him outside anyway, easily foiling her stepmother's plans despite her efforts.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After the slipper fails to fit the stepmother and stepsisters, they deny that there's anyone else in the house, while blocking the prince's view of the doors to the kitchen where the stepmother has locked Cinderella. But the prince notices the doors and, after some drawn-out back-and-forth, finally insists that the stepfamily let him look inside. The music swells, preparing us for the prince and Cinderella's reunion... but as it turns out, the kitchen is empty, because Cinderella has escaped and is running away from home. Fortunately, the prince finds her outside a few moments later.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Really, this trope is completely discarded. In addition to the aforementioned Adaptational Attractiveness of the stepmother, it isn't ugliness that the stepsisters use to contrast with Cinderella. In this version, instead, they're clumsy, improper, stupid (even the stepmother shows signs she can't stand this; see Surrounded by Idiots below) and have some strange bad habits.
  • Beta Couple: The king and queen.
  • Big "NO!": The stepmother yells this immediately before Cinderella tries on the glass slipper, knowing it to be a perfect fit, before she faints and Lionel says, "Quiet, woman!"
  • Bowdlerise: The Double Entendre mentioned in the earlier versions ("Oh la, Your Highness! You shouldn't say such things!") became reduced to: "Oh, Your Highness!"
  • Butt-Monkey: Lionel. In spades.
  • Casting Gag: Lionel, played by Jason Alexander, is essentially a 19th century version of George Costanza.
  • Character Development: Cinderella grows from being "as mild and as meek as a mouse" under her stepmother's thumb, to realizing with her Fairy Godmother's help that she needs to do more than wish and dream to Earn Her Happy Ending, and taking her future into her own hands.
  • Character Tics: Minerva gets itchy when she's nervous and Calliope snorts when she laughs.
  • Colorblind Casting: Although the story could hypothetically have any race, this trope applies because a white man (Victor Garber) and a black woman (Whoopi Goldberg) can have a Filipino son. Likewise, the stepfamily consists of a white mother, a white daughter and a black daughter.
  • Covers Always Lie: The back of the VHS/DVD case credits Hammerstein with all of the lyrics, even though "The Sweetest Sounds" and "Falling In Love With Love" respectively had lyrics from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, instead.
  • Credits Montage: The end credits accompany each actor's name with a clip of his or her character.
  • Daddy's Girl: Cinderella was extremely close to her late father, who is described as a kind man who encouraged her dreams. Notably, the only time Cinderella openly expresses anger and defiance towards her stepmother isn't caused by any cruelty towards her, but by the stepmother insulting her father and calling him weak.
  • Dirty Old Man: When the king and queen are discussing Cinderella, the king is a little too impressed with how beautiful she is.
    King Maximillian: Why, if I were a young man, I'd...
    Queen Constantina: Yes, dear?
    King Maximillian: Well, I'd be younger, wouldn't I?
    Queen Constantina: Yes, dear.
  • Distant Duet:
    • Before Cinderella and Prince Christopher meet, they sing "The Sweetest Sounds" from two different parts of the marketplace. After they meet, they reprise it before returning to their respective homes.
    • After the ball, Christopher reprises "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" after finding Cinderella's missing glass slipper, and she joins in from the path back to her stepmother's house.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The stepmother, who is rich and domineering, is white. Cinderella, who works for her as a mistreated household servant, is black. Although it is relieving that one of the stepsisters and the queen are both black, so this was most likely unintentional.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Fairy Godmother encourages Cinderella to stop sitting around dreaming and just get out there and make it happen. Even after she gives Cinderella the carriage and ballgown she wished for, the godmother leaves her to go inside the palace alone; she'll easily get Prince Christopher's attention, but she'll have to make him love her for herself.
    Fairy Godmother: I got you to the ball. The rest comes from you.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Cinderella's very first line of dialogue is in response to her stepsisters trying on a hideously tacky hat and then demanding her opinion of it. She politely replies, "Well, I don't know very much about hats, but I don't think it flatters either one of you." This response immediately sets her up as a courteous, gentle young woman who is nevertheless unafraid to speak her mind and tell the truth, nor does she allow herself to be intimidated, which establishes her as somewhat stronger-willed than previous incarnations.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: While the first two versions' fairy godmothers wielded magic wands, this one uses sparkling magic dust.
  • Fat and Skinny: Minerva and Calliope, respectively.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: The Fairy Godmother conjures up the couple's wedding outfits and ceremony right after Cinderella puts on the glass slipper. Christopher and Cinderella had only interacted a handful of times prior to this. Of course, that was Christopher's plan all along.
  • Freudian Excuse: Cinderella lampshades that the stepmother became bitter after her father died, implying that the reason why she treats his daughter like a servant is because she reminds her of him.
  • Friendly Enemies: The stepsisters seem to have this relationship with Cinderella—at the very least, they ask for her opinions on fashion (largely to settle their own disputes) and later happily join in her song "A Lovely Night," with all three dancing together. It seems to be more a case of their stepmother forcing her opinions on the girls and them being too foolish to think otherwise, rather than any maliciousness on their part.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Played hilariously straight when Christopher allows a few white girls to try on the slipper, despite Cinderella having been African-American, and then subverted when it fits Cinderella's stepmother and Christopher refuses to believe she is the girl he danced with.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: After the shoe fails to fit either of the stepsisters, Cinderella's stepmother becomes so desperate she'll do anything for the prince's money. She locks Cinderella in the kitchen (knowing her identity), offers herself to the prince by trying on the shoe, helplessly begs him to marry one of her daughters, and then when all else fails, she gives a Big "NO!" and then passes out. Doubles as a Villainous Breakdown.
  • Hollywood Old: The only reason we know Bernadette Peters is middle-aged in this movie is that the dialogue tells us so.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: There's a very short clip at the ball that involves the stepmother dancing with a woman. She was probably shooing her off so that her daughter could dance with the Prince, but still.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Not in-universe, and probably not intentional, but at one point the stepmother tells Cinderella not to "cling to the past" because "it's not very attractive." This is said by Bernadette Peters, who hasn't aged for thirty years.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Cinderella, in regards to her servitude, and the Prince, in regards to his royal obligations.
  • Inconvenient Itch: Minerva gets itchy when she's nervous and so keeps trying to discreetly scratch herself while dancing with the prince.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The stepsisters. Then again, this is how they're usually played.
  • Ironic Name: The stepsisters, Minerva and Calliope, are both named after goddesses, which they're anything but. Calliope's name is especially ironic with her Annoying Laugh, since it's the name of a lovely-voiced Muse.
  • "I Want" Song: Cinderella's and Prince Christopher's "The Sweetest Sounds", originally written by Rodgers for No Strings.
  • King Incognito: Prince Christopher sometimes leaves the castle in a peasant's guise, to discreetly interact with his subjects in person; he and Cinderella first meet during one such outing.
  • Large Ham: Basically everyone except the two leads has moments in this area, notably Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, and Jason Alexander. Although Whoopi's portion of it consists of mostly squeaking.
  • Love at First Sight: Played with between Prince Christopher and Cinderella: they do seem to fall in love at first sight at the ball, but they had actually met earlier and become fast friends based on their mutual I Just Want to Be Free attitudes, with Cinderella unaware that he was the prince at the time and Prince Christopher unaware at the ball that she's the girl he met before.
  • Meaningful Echo: Cinderella first meets the Prince when he, as a "charming stranger", helps her pick up her bags after a royal coachman runs over them. Later, during the who-fits-the-slipper part of the movie, Cinderella again falls victim to a royal coachman. They say the same lines every time, and as they recite them the second time, both of them are realizing exactly who the other is.
    Christopher: Just like those royals, isn't it? Not caring if they're in anyone's way?
    Cinderella: Well, I'm sure they were going somewhere very important.
    • Then he asks for her name.
      Cinderella: Cinderella.
      Christopher: Cinderella. I like it.
      Cinderella: It grows on you, I guess.
  • Meaningful Name: Cinderella explains that she got her name from sitting in the cinders.
    Prince Christopher: Ohh. Cinderella.
  • Meet Cute: When Cinderella first meets Christopher, who's disguised as a commoner. They bring back a few lines from that scene at the end; see Meaningful Echo above.
  • My Beloved Smother: Crosses over with I Want Grandkids in regards to Queen Constantina. She's very eager to marry off her son and has apparently planned several balls featuring "family...a few friends...and every eligible maiden in the kingdom!"
    Prince Christopher: [exasperated] Mother!
  • Mythology Gag:
  • No Indoor Voice: "I WANT A CHANCE AT HIM!" As well as the stepmother in her last few minutes onscreen.
  • Of Corset Hurts: "Beauty knows no pain, girls!" This may be a nod to the girl in the first film who also fell victim to this trope.
  • Oh, Crap!: During "A Lovely Night," Cinderella describes what she "supposes" the ball was like, in a detailed and accurate fashion, charming her stepfamily into joining the song... but then she tops it off with the exact same curtsey she used at the ball. This trope is written all over the stepmother's face as she puts two and two together.
  • Painful Rhyme: Discussed. The Fairy Godmother rhymes "Fol-de-rol and fiddle-dee-dee, fiddley, faddley, foodle—all the dreams in the world are...dizzy in the nooodle!" Cinderella replies "That's terrible," and Godmother thinks she's referring to the couplet ("YOU try coming up with a rhyme on the spot!"), although the girl actually meant the sentiment behind it.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Cinderella's stepfamily wears these 24/7. Then, of course, there's Cinderella herself after her transformation.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Lionel seems to serve no real purpose other than to be this. ESPECIALLY when he starts to announce any member of the royal family, using their full Overly Long Name.
  • Race Lift: This adaptation is well-known for its uniquely diverse main cast; Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother, stepsister Minerva, and the Queen are all played by African-American actresses, while Prince Christopher is portrayed by a Filipino-American. A few minor lyric changes are made to suit this casting: references in "Stepsisters' Lament" to Cinderella's pink cheeks and white neck are replaced with remarks about her "exquisite face" and "long" neck, and during "In My Own Little Corner," she imagines herself as an Egyptian princess instead of a Norwegian one and as a "thief" instead of a "slave" in Calcutta.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Some dialogue the Fairy Godmother mutters while turning the pumpkin into a coach reveals that she is over 600 years old, while Whitney Houston was only in her 30s at the time.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The stepmother gives a harsh one to Cinderella that triples with Kick the Dog and Speak Ill of the Dead.
    "Your father was weak. He spoiled you rotten, he filled your head with silly thoughts and dreams that'll never come true. Never."
  • Rule of Three: In-universe, three members of Cinderella's family try the slipper on before she does; "The Prince Is Giving A Ball" goes through three Overly Long Names (including three Embarrassing Middle Names); and both "Impossible" and the added song "The Sweetest Sounds" are sung three times. Outside of that, three of the leads are African-American, three different shoe sizes were used for the slipper (only one model was actually made of glass), and three songs were added to the score.
  • Sassy Black Woman: The Fairy Godmother and the queen. Especially since they're played respectively by Whitney Houston and Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Shirtless Scene: Prince Christopher gets one after removing his peasant disguise, while buttoning up his royal coat.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Cinderella's blue ballgown looks similar to the one she wears in Disney's animated version. Other similarities to the animated version include the stepfamily’s signature colors (the stepmother tending to wear purple, while one stepsister wears red-based colors and the other wears green), the prince yawning out of boredom at the ball before Cinderella arrives, the stepmother pointing out that Cinderella (in her ball gown) looks vaguely familiar, and later, the stepmother figuring out that Cinderella was the girl at the ball and locking her in her room.
    • "There's Music In You" originally lacked a bridge, so the Fairy Godmother fills it by quoting Allegro, the oldest Rodgers and Hammerstein musical never to receive a screen adaptation.
  • Show Some Leg: The stepmother trying to get on Lionel's good side. It doesn't work.
    Lionel: You know, I honestly wish there were something between us.
    Stepmother: Really?
    Lionel: Yes. A continent. [He leaves]
  • Squee: After the stepmother tries on the shoe and it fits, she can't stop squealing. Until the shoe cuts her circulation off and her squealing turns into screams of pain.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The stepmother appears to feel this way with regards to her daughters.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Prince Christopher last sings "The Sweetest Sounds" before searching for The Girl Who Fits This Slipper. Since they've already met, he skips over all of the lines in which he yearned to meet his true love, instead simply declaring proudly that she's "waiting somewhere" for him.
  • Troubled Abuser: The stepmother forced Cinderella into servitude and callously dismisses her dreams, but it’s implied that she struggles with the death of her second husband and is aware of her problems, but feels out of resources. This, along with the fact that she falls into the Laughably Evil category, is among the many redeeming qualities which prevents her from being a complete Hate Sink.
  • True Blue Femininity: While the 1957, 1965 and 2013 Cinderellas all wear white gowns to the ball, this version dresses her in sparkling light blue.
  • Villain Song: Well, Bernadette Peters had to sing something. The song, "Falling in Love with Love," is more of a statement of her opinion, and it's not done in a villainous manner. That may just be because it was originally written for a different show, The Boys From Syracuse, by Rodgers and Hart.