I read in the promotional material prior to Cinderella‘s release that this would be a different take on the classic fairy tale. The promotional material was lying. There are no real surprises in the story laid out on screen, as this live-action version of Cinderella sticks to the tale we’ve all heard and love. And if you were worried any 21st century sensibilities would make this Cinderella anything different than the abused stepdaughter who only attends the ball and meets her prince because of help from her fairy godmother, fear not. This is your mother’s – and grandmother’s – Cinderella and it’s a gorgeous (and safe) fairy tale adaptation.
Lily James (Downton Abbey) takes on the title role and while she’s lovely and a fine actress, the chemistry between she and her onscreen prince was lacking much spark. The prince is played by Richard Madden who had plenty of time to tackle Cinderella after his aborted reign as the King of the North in Game of Thrones. Madden’s prince isn’t called on to do much other than look terrific in his royal attire, dance, and chase after the poor servant girl who he falls in love during their first meeting in the woods. Madden’s prince does stand up against his father’s chief advisor and follows his heart, but he’s still not that engaging of a character on screen.
Cate Blanchett plays wicked well, with icy glares and scathing putdowns that would make the strongest heart shrivel. And, Blanchett’s wardrobe alone is enough to earn three-time Academy Award winner Sandy Powell another Best Costume Design Oscar nomination. But if one performance needs to be singled out in this ensemble it’s Helena Bonham Carter’s Fairy Godmother. Although her screen time is less than 10 minutes, Bonham Carter lightens the tone of the film and was the perfect choice to play the quirky character who makes Cinderella’s dreams come true.
With a running time of 112 minutes, Cinderella does try the patience of younger audience members, and even adults may get a bit squirmy halfway through. But at least the stunning sets and beautiful costumes remain pleasant to look at throughout the film even when the pacing lags. Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, As You Like It) from a script by Chris Weitz (About a Boy), this Cinderella isn’t flashy and doesn’t forge a new path, but it does have adorable mice to cheer for and a villain to hiss. Is it the best live-action adaptation of Cinderella? No. My vote still goes to Ever After with Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, and Anjelica Huston, but this 2015 Cinderella will be adored by audiences of all ages ready to embrace a poor girl who falls for a prince and the prince who reciprocates that love and comes to her rescue.
MPAA rating: PG for mild thematic elements
-By Rebecca Murray
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