Remember in my Into the Woods review when I bashed live action fairy tale retellings? Well I have some instructions for my past self:
- Take foot.
- Insert into mouth.
Cinderella sticks closely to its animated counterpart, and in doing so; it reintroduces us to the magic that turned the tale into a classic. This movie feels pretty old-fashion, and that’s a good thing. Cinderella is the best reimaging of the beloved fairy tale to date.
What I liked
The very first thing you’ll notice in this movie is its beautiful scenery and costume design. One of my major gripes about live-action fairy tale adaptations is that their fantastical worlds all look the same, so it was nice to see Cinderella break that trend by showing us a consistent world that stands out from other Disney flicks. As a matter of fact, the look of this movie is one of the things that make it feel just like the classic. Most everything is as you remember it. Cinderella still has a splendid blue dress, the pumpkin still turns into a beautiful carriage, and the scenes taking place in the castle are still as regal as ever. But each of these is embellished to look just a bit more dazzling, and it works out wonderfully.
While the core elements of the story are the same, the movie explores backstories far more liberally. This could have easily been done as filler in an effort to fluff things up to a 90-minute run time. But instead, it’s used to show us how each character becomes they way he or she is. Knowing why characters do things, such as why the stepmother is so cruel or why Cinderella is so unnaturally kind, really adds a lot of weight to the characters and makes for a much more satisfying experience.
As I mentioned several times before, this film’s greatest strength is that it didn’t try to reinvent the story of Cinderella. The key plot points are all the same, and the old-fashioned sense of fantasy makes up the core of the movie. As a matter of fact, “old-fashioned” would probably be the best way to describe it. Sure, it adds a few new character details and plot points to keep the story moving and to make things more believable, but none of those can keep you from feeling that everything is familiar. What makes Cinderella so unique is that it’s not trying to excite you with the notion of “new untold story.” It’s not thrilling or thought provoking. Watching this movie is like visiting with an old friend. It may seem childish, but it really does add just a little dose of magic to the mix. I have to give props to director Kenneth Branagh for maintaining this delightful tone all throughout the movie.
Of course, all the talent involved did a great job. There’s instant chemistry between lead stars Lily James and Richard Madden, and it’s plain to see from the moment they show up on screen together. In addition to working well together, the both do well in their own storylines, playing out their characters not as two halves of a “happy ending” whole, but as interesting characters. It actually kind of surprised me that the more well known actors and actresses took the background spotlight, but in the end, I think it added an extra layer to the story. Cate Blanchett was especially notable in her performance as the evil stepmother. She took a character that was pretty one-sided in the cartoon and turned her into a solid character with believable motivations, and that’s pretty dang cool.
What I didn’t like
Because there’s nothing new, this movie does drag on a little bit, particularly in the beginning. It felt like if they had shortened one section in particular, it would be able to pick up a good pace earlier on into the film.
And of course, this is a movie for kids, so some scenes are clearly overacted. It never gets painful to watch (cough cough Oz the Great and Powerful), but it is noticeable. I understand they had to do this because the movie is technically for children, but it’s still something you should know about before going into he theater. In addition to some overacting, the dialogue does seem to hit you over the head with the same moral points. I understand that a movie for kids has to have a theme, but when it gets to the point where it’s being quoted in every other scene by a certain character, it can get a bit annoying.
If you grew up on Disney cartoons, this movie is for you. If for some reason you’ve never seen Disney’s original Cinderella, this movie is for you. If you’re just looking for a fun movie to watch this weekend, this movie is for you. If you’re looking for something new and exciting to enthrall you, this movie is not for you. In the end, Cinderella bright visuals and nostalgic tone make for a charming movie. It plays off its old-fashion fantasy to deliver an experience that’s familiar, but still a bit magical.
What did you think of Cinderella?