This Disney live-action fairy tale is one more proof that the Disney princesses we looked up to as kids are, for lack of a better term, utterly ridiculous. Have courage and be brave completely sounds like the bad beginning of a boring old children’s morality tale, and perhaps it is. Despite the talented director and a competent team of actors behind him, not to mention a spectacular villainess, Cinderella fails to make my heart go bibbidi–bobbidi–boo.
Cinderella introduces us to a kind-hearted beautiful girl named Ella (Lily James) who lives with her mother and father in the country. After losing her mother (Hayley Atwell) to some sort of illness, her father remarries a few years later to Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), forcing Ella to live with a stepmother and two stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger). But when Ella’s father (Ben Chaplin) meets his ill-timed demise on one of his merchant trips, she soon becomes the focus of Lady Tremaine’s jealousy and cruelty.
Ella, refusing to leave her beloved home, becomes little more than the lowly servant in the household. Remembering her promise to her mother, she remains courageous and kind. Because fairy tales, apparently. However, after a fated encounter with “Kit”, whom she doesn’t yet realize is the prince of the kingdom, Ella starts to dream of happier things. With the help of her fairy godmother, of course.
In true fairy tale fashion, Cinderella is all bright colors, sunny smiles, charming animals, and dashing princes. Kenneth Branagh takes a safe route on this classic story. There are no surprises, no plot twists, no new elements that the original cartoon movie didn’t have.
But that’s not to say this is a horrible movie. On the contrary, this is a well-paced cleverly constructed narrative that focuses more on the “magical” and “morality tale” elements rather than the darker tones of other live-action adaptations such as Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman.
To her credit, Lily James’ Ella is far more likeable than the cartoon Cinderella; she’s still kind, beautiful, and…er, kind. But James plays her with a bit more conviction, strength, and wit, making the far-too-forgettable Cinderella much more memorable. James Marsden’s Kit is also far more charming than his cartoon counterpart; Game of Thrones fans might be delighted to see the King of the North wearing royalty garb and bearing the crown he so deserves. teeeheee 😀 Helena Bonham Carter, as always, makes a delightful brief appearance as the fairy godmother, this time wielding a wand for good magic.
However, just as Charlize Theron stole the show in Snow White and the Huntsman, Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror, or Angelina Jolie’s shining villainess Maleficent, this live action Cinderella is Cate Blanchett’s film.
From the moment she turned her head on her first appearance to her last sequence as a desperate and deprived woman, Cate is absolutely flawless. Because of course. Its clear that she and Branagh try hard to make her flawed and nuanced, something that they both succeed in doing. Lady Tremaine, as little backstory as her character allows, is the most interesting character in the movie.
So is it worth the movie ticket?
Overall, the juicebox crowd will certainly enjoy the magical and comedic elements in the film, not to mention the pre-movie Frozen Fever exclusive only to Cinderella screenings. Teens will swoon over the blue-eyed hearthrob that is Robb St…er, Prince Kit. And parents can go down memory lane as they relive this fairy tale classic from their childhood.