Netflix UK film review: A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish
Ivan Radford | On 20, Dec 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Michelle Johnston
Cast: Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Johannah Newmarch
Watch A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
Cinderella, but make it Christmas. That’s the basic concept behind A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish, the inevitable next step for the teen comedy franchise A Cinderella Story. The fifth in the series inspired by the age-old fairytale, this latest outing offers a seasonal twist by, well, setting the whole thing at Christmas.
Cinders – let’s call her Kat Decker (Laura Marano) – is a social outcast who works as an elf at the local Christmas tree park. Mostly known for featuring in a video clip of her spilling coffee that went viral, she finds comfort in her sparky BFF Isla (Isabella Gomez) and her songwriting. Both feature heavily at work, where she and Isla perform Christmas musical numbers to kids while their parents go tree shopping.
When a hot young Santa turns up one day, Kat finds herself falling for him – only for him to turn out to be Dominic Wintergarden (Gregg Sulkin), the young heir to billionaire Terrence Wintergarden (Barclay Hope). Terrence was friends with Kat’s dad back in the day, but the two lost touch before he passed away. Terrence and Kat, though, are destined never to cross paths, because Kat’s cruel stepmother, Deirdre (Johannah Newmarch) barely lets her out of the house, where Kat is effectively a slave to her mean stepsisters, Joy (Lillian Doucet-Roche) and Grace (Chanelle Peloso).
With the Wintergarden Christmas ball on the horizon, all the pieces fit together with the predictable precision of a dictionary – and with about as much excitement, thanks to the lack of surprises on offer. Lara Marano and Gregg Sulkin, though, are enjoyable presences, conjuring up a nice bit of chemistry that’s balanced by Gomez’s enthusiastic, would-be matchmaker in the background.
Marano, known for Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally, continues the A Cinderella Story’s tradition of casting actor-singers in the lead role – Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, Lucy Hale and Sofia Carson have gone before – and she and Gomez sell their musical gifts with a convincing enough earnestness. It’s a shame, then, that every song and dance is autotuned to the point where that authenticity is undermined – a real obstacle for a film where the plot and characters are defined by their love of music.
Michelle Johnston, who made her feature debut with the fourth instalment in the franchise, whisks events along at a brisk clip, folding in some amusingly over-the-top slapstick from the stepsisters – and some cringe-worthy attempts by Dierdre to seduce old Terry. But the game cast and confident helming can’t quite make up for the autotuned set pieces or a script that doesn’t have the conviction to break away from the Cinderella formula entirely – beyond this being set at Christmas, there’s not really much festive about it. If you’re looking for a familiar adaptation of Cinderella, this may well be worth unwrapping. But if you’re looking for a surprising, engaging Christmas film, this isn’t the slipper for you.
A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.