Director: Frank Tashlin
Cast: Jerry Lewis, Ed Wynn, Judith Anderson
Cinderfella’s fairy godfather helps him escape from his wicked stepmother and stepbrothers.
I’m not a fan of Jerry Lewis’s type of comedy, but I can usually at least understand why his puerile face-pulling and buffoonery would appeal to kids. In Cinderfella, however, the usual Lewis recipe is reheated one more time but this time it stubbornly refuses to warm up. Although Cinderfella looks good, it contains hardly any laughs and quickly becomes something of an ordeal to sit through.
The story is a straightforward updating of the Cinderella fairy tale, but with the genders reversed, so that Lewis is the Cinderella character. He’s the stepson of wicked stepmother Judith Anderson — who, together with Anna Maria Alberghetti, proves to be one of the few positives out of this whole sorry mess — who finds himself treated as a servant by her and her two sons, Maximilian (Henry Silva) and Rupert (Robert Hutton). Although the family live in opulent splendour, their money’s nearly all gone because Fella’s deceased father hid his riches. Apparently, he’s now trying to reveal the location to his son in his dreams, but Fella keeps waking up before the dream is over and the treasure’s whereabouts revealed. Meanwhile, the wicked stepmother has targeted the wealthy Princess Charming (Alberghetti) as a prospective wife for Rupert and a possible route out of their financial mess.
The problem with Cinderfella is that too often the gags just aren’t funny enough. A couple just about pass master — an adjustable candle flame, for example and a ring with an inscription that seems to go forever — but they go on far too long so that any initial laughs have long since been wrung dry before Lewis finally wraps them up. I mean, how many times did he think he could make people laugh by walking back and forth along the length of an insanely long dinner table?
(Reviewed 15th January 2014)