*** (out of 5)
March 13, 2015
Cate Blanchett as STEPMOTHER
Lily James as CINDERELLA
Richard Madden as PRINCE
Helena Bonham Carter as FAIRY GODMOTHER
Nonso Anozie as CAPTAIN
Stellan Skarsgård as GRAND DUKE
Sophie McShera as DRISELLA
Holliday Grainger as ANATASIA
Derek Jacobi as KING
Ben Chaplin as ELLA’S FATHER
Hayley Atwell as ELLA’S MOTHER
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It seems to make a lot of sense that Disney remade their classic animated fairy tale “Cinderella” with the live-action treatment this year, especially considering what global successes they had with Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” five years ago and with Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent” last year. If Disney knows anything, it knows formula and how to milk it.
Now they’ve dipped into the classic animation vault, dusted the musical elements off the 1950 film and given a new take on a familiar story. In fact, the studio was so true to the classic film that it flows almost beat-by-beat with the same emotions and scenes.
This doesn’t necessarily bother me because it has been 65 years since the first movie came out, and Disney is hardly tarnishing the original classic’s legacy by essentially re-shooting it. This isn’t Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho,” after all. It’s Disney updating their own film, using all the tools at their disposal – from digital backgrounds to CGI versions of mice turning into horses and a goose turning into a coach driver.
Director Kenneth Branagh, who had a box office hit with “Thor” four years ago and a critical and popular misfire with “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” last year, lends his classical touch to this movie. In this sense, he seems very much at home behind “Cinderella,” which is cut more from the classical Shakespeare cloth that Branagh cut his directorial teeth on than the superhero and tent pole action movies he’s been helming lately.
I know that a lot of critics are practically falling over to praise this film, and I’m not saying that I disagree with their positive outlook. I suppose I just wasn’t wowed by it. “Cinderella” was exactly what I expected, which means it lived up to my expectations. And for a mid-March movie, you can do a lot worse.
The acting holds the film together. It starts with Lily James’ adorable take on Cinderella, which nails the role much better than Elle Fanning’s turn as Aurora from “Maleficent” last year. In this film, Cinderella is kind and sweet, but she is not a fool. She’s simply loyal to a fault. Also quite good is Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. She has more spunk than the classic version of the character without straying too far from the spirit of things.
Rounding out the top performers is Cate Blanchett as the wicked Stepmother. It’s many actor’s dream to play a Disney villain, and Blanchett devours the role with the aplomb that Glenn Close did Cruella DeVil.
Heck, even the prince charming has some depth and characterization to him. And that’s saying a lot because, aside from a scene of him yawning in the animated classic, he really was as undeveloped as your typical love interest was in the 1950s.
I suppose the only real disappointment I had with this movie was it was almost so faithful to the original animated film that it felt routine. That’s not a terrible thing because I’d rather have something honoring a classic film in a different format than trying to give an egomaniacal director a chance to give his own new spin to things.
While I have kids, I have three boys. They outgrew any interest in “Cinderella” many years ago, so my invites to then to see this movie fell on deaf ears. (That, of course, won’t be the case with other big Disney films this year… I’m looking at you, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”) So, as charming as “Cinderella” is, it is best shared with someone you love. If you have daughters or know anyone who gets a charge out of the whole Disney Princess segment of popular culture, take them with you to see this movie. It was made especially for them.