With a story that has its roots back as far as 7BC, the trials and tribulations of Cinderella have influenced and been the inspiration for many stories, plays, pantomimes, and in the past century, films. The tale of a downtrodden and oppressed orphan girl escaping the evil clutches of her step-family and finding love and a better life appeals to the romantic in all of us.
Cinderella’s story is not a festive one but there is no good reason why it cannot be set around the holidays. At least that seemed to be the thinking of the makers of Netflix’s A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish. Spoilers – if you really don’t know the story of Cinderella that is – ahead.
When Kat Emerson’s (Laura Marano) father dies, she is forced to live with her stepmother, Deirdre Decker (Johannah Newmarch) and her two daughters, Grace (Chanelle Peloso) and Joy (Lillian Doucet-Roche). The Decker clan, who live off of Kat’s inheritance which is under the control of Deidre until Kat’s eighteenth birthday, treat Kat like a lackey, having her do all the cleaning and also forcing her to work to earn any money.
Kat dreams of becoming a singer and songwriter but Deidre constantly suppresses her, telling her that she will never be good enough to make it. Whilst out with her step-family, Kat gets humiliated when she bumps into the towns most eligible bachelor, Dominic Wintergarden (Gregg Sulkin), falls over and gets covered in a milkshake. Joy films the entire scene and posts it to social media.
Later, Kat goes to work at a Christmas fair where she is a singing elf. There is a new Father Christmas and she immediately hits it off with him. It is Dominic, though neither initially realise they have met before, even as Dominic notes some familiarity in Kat’s face.
Dominic’s father, Terence (Barclay Hope), has an annual Christmas party that is invitation only. When Deirdre finds out that Kat’s father was a close friend of billionaire Terence, she hatches a plan to get herself invited to the party, writing him a letter and playing on the fact that he was a friend of Kat’s father. Meanwhile, Kat is getting closer to Dominic at work. He reveals who he is to her and invites her to the party.
Having received a reply from Terence inviting her and her daughter, Katherine, to the party, Deirdre plans to have Joy pretend to be Kat. Kat’s best friend, Isla (Isabella Gomez), makes her a dress for the party, Deirdre finds out that Kat has been invited to the party and takes her ticket and burns it. She takes the dress Isla made for her and gives it to Joy. She tells Kat if she tries to come to the party she will never get her inheritance.
A smitten Dominic invites her over to meet his friends. Kat turns up in her elf outfit but his friends recognise her from Joy’s video. An embarrassed and angry Kat leaves Dominic’s house even as he tries to apologise, not having realised, until that moment, that he had met her and she was from the viral video.
A morose Kat returns home and laments her relationship status with Dominic. Dominic, meanwhile, is also lamenting his relationship status, feeling that he has lost out with Kat due to the earlier encounter. He tells his father about his misgivings and how she left behind her songwriting book when she ran out of the house. His father tells him he can fix it. Dominic is not so sure.
Later, Kat comes home to find her step-family getting ready to go to the party. When Joy goes to get her handbag, Kat sees her snow-globe. The snow-globe is special to Kat as it reminds of her father. Joy and Kat fight over the item and it breaks. Deirdre and her daughters go to the party leaving an angry and heartbroken Kat behind.
Kat finds the letter that Deirdre received from Terence and realises that he expects to meet her. She decides to go to the party. At the party, Deirdre is desperately trying to find Terence, unsure what he looks like having never met him. Elsewhere, Isla, who is helping with the entertainment at the party, helps Kat to sneak into the party.
During the Christmas show, that Kat has unwittingly found herself part of, Kat accidentally knocks the show’s Snow Queen unconscious. The show organiser (Bethany Brown) tells Kat she will have to take her place. Dominic comes and finds her backstage and they make up. Kat performs at the party and impresses all who have attended.
Kat tells Terence about Deirdre’s plan. Deirdre tells Kat that she has spent all of her inheritance. Terence tells Kat that he will look after her and she can chase her dream. He has the Decker clan escorted from the party. Dominic apologises for his friends and not intervening. He asks Kat to dance with him, saying it is a Wintergarden tradition. They dance and fall in love. The end.
A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish is a passable Christmas movie. Starring Laura Marano, who was also in Netflix’s The Perfect Date, another, quite sweet, teenage rom-com, it is a brain-in-neutral experience. One could watch the entire film in silence and know what is going to happen at the end or even miss the first hour and not be even slightly perturbed. The acting is made-for-television standard, with those playing the Decker clan hamming it up for the camera.
Gregg Sulkin, as the handsome Dominic, is uninterestingly attractive. He will never struggle for attention but neither does he have the looks of someone you feel compelled to watch on the big screen. As Marano’s character is an aspiring singer/songwriter the film has songs in it. They are all completely forgettable and performed with staggering blandness. Mariah Carey’s Christmas money is not likely to be challenged by any of the songs on offer in this film, all of which are horribly overproduced and auto-tuned.
Written by Leigh Dunlap and Michelle Johnston, with Johnston also on directing duties, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish is eighty-five minutes of harmless fluff in a festive setting. This is the sort of film you will have on in the background when all the family have come around for dinner and proceed to talk over it.
Not an awful film, in spite of my less than glowing review, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish is not great either and is unlikely to make anybody’s top ten favourite Christmas films list.