Synopsis: A live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale, Cinderella brings to life the timeless images from Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece as fully-realized characters in a visually-dazzling spectacle for a whole new generation.
Release Date: March 13, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
Over the last few decades, filmmakers far and wide have tried their hand at delivering a live action Cinderella. Some have been more successful than others, with a few opting for a more free form adaptation while most adhere as close to the original as possible. Disney’s latest attempt at a live action adaptation, the succinctly titled Cinderella, falls into the latter category. It’s a well-made adaptation, sure, but there’s little bite to the film itself. Because there is very little deviation or imagination at play, it’s hard not to ask why the film was even made in the first place, box office dollars not withstanding.
There’s no point in breaking down the plot of Cinderella; we’ve heard, read, and seen the story countless times. All the component parts are here: the evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett), the noble and charming Prince (Richard Madden), the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and of course the often-neglected Cinderella (Lily James). Yes, the evil stepmother is abusive, yes she has two equally wicked daughters, and yes things look bleak for Cinderella once her parents die. There is a ray of hope, though, that comes in the form of a chance meeting with the Prince and an eventual ball.
By and large, the cast in Cinderella performs admirably in their assigned roles. Lily James gives Cinderella a hopeful spirit, but also shows flashes of a girl whose been beaten down by life’s speed bumps. Madden’s Prince is charming yet headstrong, and you sense an immediate connection between him and Cinderella. The only real oddball out of the bunch is Helena Bonham Carter, whose fairy godmother feels like it was written for Johnny Depp. There are needless prop teeth, scatterbrained bits of dialogue, and even some really strange CGI old lady makeup – all of which add up to an interpretation that misses the mark.
Of course, the real juicy role in Cinderella is the evil stepmother, and Cate Blanchett nails it. She’s not flamboyant in her wicked ways, but finds subtle tricks to suggest cruelty. Her character is malicious of spirit, but not overly showy. For a time, you actually find her a tiny bit likeable, but eventually the claws do come out. Blanchett’s performance is emblematic of Cinderella as a whole, though; it’s restrained and believable enough to fit in this world, but it doesn’t add anything new to the conversation. You enjoy watching her on screen, but will easily forget her performance in a few hours.
With director Kenneth Branagh at the helm, Cinderella was all but guaranteed to be a handsomely made picture. A veteran of Shakespearean theater and film, Branagh has found his niche bringing innately British tales to the screen, and by and large he does so with minimal hiccups. There’s the occasional weird camera angle, but those are few and far between. Cinderella meets all expectations on a technical level, with solid visuals, succinct camera work, and serviceable visual effects.
In the end, though, it’s hard to come away from Cinderella feeling anything more than a casual sense of entertainment. The film’s restraint makes sense, as it assures a high level of audience satisfaction, but it also keeps Cinderella from taking on a personality of its own. Kids and families will love watching the film, but they have felt the same way about the countless other Cinderella iterations out there. Yes, the glass slipper still fits, but did we really need to go back to the ball?
Cinderella‘s strongest quality is its script, which brings a greater maturity to the subject matter. That’s likely Kenneth Branagh’s skill as an actor/director at play, but whatever the case may be, the character interactions are a delight to watch on screen, even if we know most of the beats. Screenwriter Chris Weitz has streamlined the story to eliminate all fluff, and while that results in a fairly neutered adaptation, the film is hardly a bore. The story is peppered with plenty of intriguing characters that you’ll find enough momentum to get through each familiar scene. He could have done a little better, and made Cinderella feel unique, but as it stands Weitz gets through Cinderella without messing anything up. With the way many adaptations have gone these days, that in itself should be considered an accomplishment.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Kenneth Branagh
- Screenwriter(s): Chris Weitz
- Cast: Cate Blanchett (Stepmother)Lily James (Cinderella)Richard Madden (Prince) Helena Bonham Carter (Fairy Godmother)
- Editor(s): Martin Walsh
- Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Patrick Doyles
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA