Grade:  B
Not rated (would be G)

These days everyone thinks Disney when they hear the word “Cinderella,” but the folk tale dates back to 7 B.C. and has spawned thousands of variations. The most common in western culture has been Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon (1697), which added the pumpkin, fairy godmother, and those uncomfortable glass slippers.

The Cinderella of this 2021 Norwegian film has been tweaked to reflect 21st-century values, though maybe something was lost in translation, because I couldn’t figure out what the three wishes might be—unless she wishes she could have a pet owl, like Hermoine Granger; wishes she could ride a horse and successfully pose as a man, like Mulan; and wishes she could shoot a bow and arrow as deftly as Katniss Everdeen.

I have to admit, it’s refreshing to revisit the Cinderella story from a non-Disney perspective. Yes, this Cinderella is kind to animals and people, and as a result, everyone loves her. She’s down to earth and always willing to help, but also feisty and far from submissive. Three Wishes for Cinderella is still a romance, but this princess doesn’t really need a prince, and she’s perfectly capable of rescuing herself. The happy ending is the result of two people being attracted to each other and mutually agreeing to be together. And in this century, that’s the happiest and healthiest ending.

The Internet Movie Database lists more than 400 filmed variants of the Cinderella story, and descriptions suggest this version may be closely related to a Czech/East German 1973 production that I haven’t seen, so I can’t offer any comparisons. I did notice that the 1973 film was shot in winter, and this Norwegian production followed suit. That alone adds an element of interest to a tale that should make Three Wishes for Cinderella stand out.

The other major selling point, especially for young viewers, is that charismatic pop star Astrid S is the lead actress and makes for a warm and extremely likable Cinderella. Astrid does it all when it comes to the songs that have over 2.3 billion streams—performing, writing, and producing her music and directing her music videos—and she manages to do it all, range-wise, in her acting debut. She shifts gears effortlessly, whether it’s playing the victim opposite a cruel stepmother, taking the blame for a servant’s blunder, chastising a hunter with a snowball to the back of the head, wielding a bow with precision, or trying her hand at guy-talk when she’s disguised. Astrid and the gorgeous Norwegian winter cinematography absolutely carry this picture, but there’s also added interest with the familiar fairytale plot getting tweaked a bit.

Astrid’s Cinderella isn’t the type to stay at home and bake cookies, as Hillary Clinton once joked. She’s adventurous, she loves nature, she loves people, and she somehow manages to survive the abuse heaped on her by her stepmother and stepsister (there’s only one in this version), so yeah, she’s also a survivor. And an optimistic and cheerful one. There are times when she doesn’t suffer fools, as when she socks one fellow hard enough to knock him backwards, pelts another with that snowball, and shoots an arrow right at someone to make a point. She’s a free spirit in search of nothing more than some respite from her stepmother, and director Cecilie A. Mosli (Grey’s Anatomy) does a wonderful job of showcasing the character’s complexities and also treating the artic winter and village life of Norway as a main character. 

Plus, Astrid Smeplass isn’t the only talent here. The cast features some familiar faces who have some impressive credits of their own:  Thorbjørn Harr (Vikings), Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones), Bjørn Sundquist (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), Nasrin Khusrawi (Lilyhammer), Dorrit Petersen (The Innocents), Ingrid Giaever (Thelma), and Cengiz Al, who had previously met Astrid on the set of the popular TV series Skam.

As for age-appropriateness, Three Wishes for Cinderella isn’t rated, but it’s suitable for the entire family. After all, it did win an Amanda Award (Norway’s Oscar) for Best Children’s Film. Three Wishes for Cinderella was shot in Norwegian, but this Shout! Factory release offers both an original language version with English subtitles and a dubbed English version so small children and the reading-averse can also enjoy it.

The dubbed version is the Blu-ray default. As I watched, I was struck by how much in tone, writing, and scenic construction this seemed like a live-action version of the animated Barbie films that were produced in the early 2000s—films like Barbie as Rapunzel, Barbie in The Nutcracker, and Barbie of Swan Lake. It had he same tone and straightforward plot of a fairy tale aimed at adolescents and the same kind of exaggerated, slightly goofy character voices—the Prince, especially. But a funny thing happened when I watched it with the original actors’ voices and English subtitles:  the similarity to those old Barbie movies magically disappeared. Poof! The Prince (Cengiz Al) was no longer a complete dork. And the tone of the film seemed to change, which made me wonder:  were the voiceover actors coached to play their parts more broadly, since the dubbed version was perhaps intended for export to a younger audience?  

Fans of the pop star will wonder if there are any musical bonus features. Alas, there aren’t, but the film itself is worth watching . . . probably more than once. It’s available starting tomorrow, October 18, at your local Walmart and for purchase or rent on AppleTV, Amazon, GooglePlay, Microsoft, Vudu, and other major digital platforms.

Entire family:  Yes
Run time:  87 min., Color
Studio/Distributor:  Storm Films/Shout! Factory
Aspect ratio:  2.39:1 widescreen
Featured audio:  Norwegian and English DTS-HDMA 5.1 (subtitles in English)
Bonus features:  n/a
Walmart link
Not rated (would be G)

Language:  0/10—Nothing that I caught

Sex:  0/10—That would be a different kind of Cinderella variant, not this one

Violence:  2/10—All referred to already, though there was an inconsistency in Cinderella, who preaches against hunting but then shoots a bird out of the sky to prove a point

Adult situations: 2/10—I’m sure people at the ball were engaging in some adult behavior (drinks, perhaps?) but it wasn’t onscreen long enough for it to make an impression, if it was there at all

Takeaway:  This film might be aimed at children first, but there are enough interesting variations to make it entertaining for the whole family