Cinderfella Film Details
Overview: A gender-swapped retelling of Charles Perrault’s classic, where Cinderfella is visited by a fairy godfather to help him escape from his wicked stepmother and stepbrothers.
Review: Decades before there was a Jim Carrey, the movies unleashed another inspired nut case Jerry Lewis whose 50s and 60s Paramount Studio vehicles tended toward an oil-and-water mix of outrageous physical comedy and mawkish sentimentalism. 1960’s “Cinderfella” is a casualty of that uneasy blend. Taking the classic fairy tale and tailoring it to fit his talents, the stretch-faced, rubber-limbed comedian portrays “Fella,” a poor, imbecilic, ostracized stepson who lives only to serve his cruel, absurdly wealthy stepmother (Judith Anderson) and her two greedy sons (Robert Hutton, Henry Silva) in their palatial mansion. The only reason they even allow Fella to still “bunk” at the mans (his bedroom is more the size of a closet) is that Fella’s late father has hidden a vast fortune somewhere on the grounds of the estate and the step-kin think the dolt may know where it might be hidden. Jerry is priceless when it comes to engineering clever, complex, high-energy sight gags. A testament to his versatility here is his miming flutist scene as he listens to a ditty on the radio in the kitchen (one of my all time favorite Lewis routines). The dinner scene where he caters to his family at an absurdly long dining table is another ingenious moment. Sprinkled throughout too are numerous well-timed bits, like the reading of the inscription off his father’s ring, or (the frequently used) hair-combing bit, etc. But too much of the time, Jerry bogs the scenes down with cheap, slick, sentimental mush. He gets what I call “telethon tender” on us — trying to work our heartstrings instead of our funnybones. I remember the Marx Brothers having the annoying habit of breaking up their frantic comedy skits with “straight” musical numbers sung by some insipid ingenues that always took away from the fun. Same problem here…only worse! Lewis incorporates HIMSELF, a very mediocre singer, into these cloying musical numbers, and ten times out of ten they don’t work. In “Cinderfella,” he allows himself no less than FOUR soporific songs to indulge in, with one of those numbers, some silly nonsense about being a “people” instead of a “person”, just unbearable. Jerry the Clown sells; Jerry the Lounge Lizard doesn’t. Judith Anderson is appropriately huffy and haughty and Henry Silva and Robert Hutton make a fine pair of oily villains, while proving good sports, too, as the unwitting victims of some of Jerry’s mishaps. But the late, great Ed Wynn is wasted here as the “Fairy Godfather,” mired in those gooey scenes I was talking about before. The demure, exceptionally lovely Anna Maria Alberghetti, who complements the lavish surroundings, appears too late in the proceedings to make any difference as the “Princess Charming” character who, for whatever reason, is smitten by the ungainly Fella. By the time she arrives, the film has lost its charm and humor, and we have lost our patience. It’s too bad she didn’t get to sing instead of Lewis. I know it sounds like I’m not a fan at all of Jerry’s, but I am! Like many producer/director/stars of his calibre, their egos get the best of them. Like Elvis Presley, most of his vehicles were not up to snuff. And in the case of “Cinderfella,” Frank Tashlin may be credited with directing, but I think we all know who the director REALLY was on this set. For those who appreciate Jerry as only the French can, I would suggest “The Disorderly Orderly,” “The Ladies Man” and his most popular, “The Nutty Professor,” to get a better feeling of this man’s genius.
Country: United States
Duration: 91 min
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
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