Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most iconic Disney princess of all? With all the adaptations over the years, the answer is surely Cinderella. After various reimaginings of the blue-eyed princess, we now get Sneakerella that not only has a gender swap to boot, but also professes unparalleled love for sneakers.
El (Chosen Jacobs), the protagonist, is a genius shoe designer, forced to be a stock-boy in his family-run shoe store. And of course, he has two evil step-brothers and a stepfather who doesn't care about him. However, El does have a wonderful support system in the form of his friend Sami (Devyn Nekoda) and the inhabitants of his almost magical neighbourhood in Queens.
Right from when we meet El, we know that his kicks are his life, and the narrative choice of treating Sneakerella as a musical is a masterstroke. Be it El's intro song about shoes, or his meet-cute with Kira (Lexi Underwood) or a rap battle, elevated by an ode to 'Queens', the choice to treat this film as a musical breathes life into this reimagination.
We already know the story even if there are new players in the mix; so, it is really up to the performances to keep us invested, and in Sneakerella, they do. The caricaturish evilness of El's family is wonderfully complemented by the grounded camaraderie between El and Sami.
While the romantic portions between El and Kira follow age-old templates, their earnestness tears through the cliches. It is impressive how the writers sneaked in the idea of having actual shoes into the mix with the 'Sneakercon' being the replacement of the Cinderella ball dance.
Will El, an ambitious young man from Queens, make it all the way across to Manhattan and become the hotshot shoe designer he is destined to be? There is also a whiff of magic, courtesy the presence of neighbourhood florist Gustavo (Juan Chioran), who says things like "Return by 12..." This angle seems too whimsical, and on the nose though.
The resolutions of conflicts, however, are far too simple, but that, I suppose, is in keeping with this type of cinema that starts with "Once Upon a Time" and ends with "Happily Ever After". This film isn't about plot ingenuity; it's about making new memories with the old. In my case, it's also about the motivation to go scrub my sneakers clean, and if possible, find a new pair or two.