Release Date: March 13th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Kenneth Branagh Actors: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Hayley Atwell, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi
welcome change of strategy from the recent “reinventing” of classic Disney heroes and villains, “Cinderella” chances a more straightforward adaptation (of the 1950 animated masterpiece) that leaves the majority of significant plot points unaltered. Despite not straying too far from the cartoon’s scenarios, this live-action translation will undoubtedly solicit varying opinions in regards to its visual appeal, parts of which are rather inspired while others are decidedly eyebrow-raising. Cate Blanchett embodies her role with fiendish relish and Helena Bonham Carter boisterously twirls through her bosomy fairy incarnation while Richard Madden stumbles for words and Lily James oftentimes allows the dress to wear her.
Though born into the modest home of a merchant and his wife, Ella (Lily James) is surrounded by love and taught the virtues of courage and kindness. Her faith is tested, however, when her mother dies and her father remarries the black-hearted Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). Deeply jealous of Ella, the resentful stepmother, along with her daughters Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), treats the young girl with disdain, forcing her to cook and clean. But after a fateful meeting in the woods with a prince (Richard Madden), Ella might just find happiness once again. With a little help from her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), she simply has to find a way to attend the Royal Ball…
“I believe in everything.” This fantasy romance for adolescents doesn’t mix well with director Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean-minded aesthetic, which insists upon heavier themes and maturer visuals than what Disney generally leans toward. It’s almost as strange a pairing as Tim Burton and Disney for “Alice in Wonderland”; a dark, brooding master of gothic tragedies doesn’t fit with a studio known for its colorful family adventures. Here, grotesquely happy frolics in sunny fields shift into tear-jerking deaths of loved ones – leading to merciless enslavement and the dour responsibilities of arranged marriages. Some of the heartfelt drama is definitely poignant, but it weighs unevenly on the gooey romance.
The setup gets an expansive enlargement, taking more than 30 minutes to reach the point when Tremaine is finally head of the household. The benefit is that one of Disney’s most amusingly callous villainesses receives backstory and depth; the tradeoff is that the second best role, the Fairy Godmother, is astonishingly brief. Cate Blanchett’s performance is effortless – and a far wiser casting decision than Lily James, who neither looks the part nor possesses the necessary softness and innocence – hiding her evilness and severity under subtle expressions and dubious smiles.
“Why are you so cruel!” The initially balanced exhibition of Tremaine’s wickedness soon takes a turn for the extreme, with dialogue that prompts the actress to wholly overdo it. Nevertheless, she’s still the highlight of the show. But in an unfortunate effort to supplement the many iconic characters, the picture utilizes unimpressive digital animals, preachy morals, awkward close-ups, strangely unfunny lizard footmen, a lack of familiar music, and Cinderella’s frequently heaving bosoms. All the while, an overexploitation of computer graphics makes the magic much less magical.
– The Massie Twins