Review: “Cinderella” Is A Visually Beautiful Re-Telling Of The Animated Movie
Director: Kenneth Branaugh
Screenwriter: Chris Weitz (screenplay)
Principal Cast: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Holliday Gainger, Sophie McShera, Stellan Skasgård, and Helena Bonham Carter
Summary: When her father unexpectedly passes, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortune begins to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods. — via IMDB
I feel pretty fortunate that I was raised on the classic Disney movies of the 90’s. The first movie I saw in the theater was The Little Mermaid and my favorite movies as a child were Alladin and The Lion King. When Maleficent turned into a huge hit I knew we were in for a re-emergence of the Disney Princess line only with real actors, so I wasn’t surprised when they announced Cinderella. The only thing that did surprise me is that it’s already out. I would swear on a stack of bibles they just announced this movie a month ago.
Cinderella is a beautifully filmed shot for shot retelling of the animated movie minus all of the songs.
I feel like I’ve been coming down hard on this movie as I’ve been working on this review on and off for the last two weeks. I felt like I was being one of those “hard to please” film critics because there is absolutely nothing wrong with Cinderella. The actors equate themselves to their roles very well, with Cate Blanchett being the standout in the entire feature as she chews on the scenery as the evil step mother. Lily James does a very good job as Cinderella, and she posses the wide eyed curiosity and beauty that comes from someone bringing one of the most famous Disney princesses to life. Helena Bonham Carter has a very small role as the fairy godmother but she’s entertaining.
Kenneth Branaugh is our director and he does a great job. There isn’t anyone out there better for bringing a fairytale to life than this man. His excellent cinematography and costume designs makes the movie look exactly like a storybook come to life. Everything is paced very well even if the beginning took a little longer than I thought it would. I would say it’s a good third into the movie before Cinderella’s Dad dies and leaves her alone with her stepmother. It’s not a bad thing but it did make everything after the ball feel cut a little short.
I suppose I just left the movie feeling a little underwhelmed. I spent the entire movie waiting for something to happen or for them to take the story in an interesting direction. I thought that was what Disney was going for with these live action versions of their cartoons, but everything new in Cinderella is entire superficial. They play up the politics of arranged marriage a lot more and Cinderella meets the Prince twice now instead of once before agreeing to marry him. If they were going in a new direction with it then I can understand leaving out the songs, but with such a straight adaptation there really isn’t any reason.
One of the things I liked the most about Frozen was that the ending was very much a subversion of the classic Disney tropes. Maleficent, while flawed, went in an unique direction with its story and both of these were financial hits. The only real change in motivation for anyone in this story is that Cinderella doesn’t want to leave her house because it meant so much to her parents. In the cartoon it’s implied she doesn’t leave because she has no where else to go, but in this version she has friends she could stay with. No parent would want their child to stay in a situation like that in order to inherit a house, so I’m not sure why Cinderella thought she should.
Cinderella is going to be a huge hit for the target audience of young women, and families will also have a good time. However, as someone who grew up on the cartoon version, I kept waiting for something different that never came. It doesn’t make the movie bad, but it did make it a bit of a letdown for me.