Review: ‘Cinderella’

Cinderella review

You’ve already seen this movie.

I could leave it at that, but I’ll also add that if you’ve seen  Ever After: A Cinderella Story with Drew Barrymore from 1998, then you’ve seen the entire movie.

This new live-action retelling of the fairy tale classic combines the beauty and magical whimsy of the classical animated film with the sincerity and fleshed out character development of Ever After. Oddly enough, 2015’s Cinderella surpasses neither of these movies.

It plays it safe and matches the original fairy tale formula to the letter. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not funny, though it manages to be charming thanks to beautiful sets, inspired musical scores, and Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother working as an acceptable counter balance to the fresh face of Lily James (no Harry Potter jokes, please). Even Helena Bonham Carter finds a way to fit her own flavor into this mostly vapid retelling.

Everything else is sadly forgettable, but that won’t prevent Cinderella from pleasing its many fans. I just wish it could have tried a little bit harder to be a little bit more.

Cinderella mostly excels at costume design and more in-depth imaginings of crucial characters, namely the prince. No longer a side character, there’s a real story now behind who Prince Charming is and why he’s so desperate for a life love. His first meeting with Cinderella is now outside of the ball, and under more humble circumstances. This time, she’s the one who doesn’t quite know what to make of the Prince, and that’s a fun change to the original story.

There’s less focus on the misadventures of the animals, but there’s a surprisingly odd amount of anti-feminism present in Cinderella herself. Unlike previous adaptations where she at least tried to escape the clutches of her evil Stepmother, this incarnation is content to just wait for someone to rescue her. It’s a strange decision for a movie that otherwise tries harder to feel more updated.

But in the end, this is the cut and dry Cinderella story with more detail, style, and story. It’s just a shame they forgot to infuse the little substance this movie has with some classic Disney whimsy.

Grade: B

Extra Credits:

  • Director Kenneth Branagh also helmed Thor, another “B” movie that feels surprisingly empty for such a rich mythology.
  • I would argue that Branagh is overshadowed in the credits by Chris Weitz, best known for About a Boy. Unfortunately, the script here is more akin to his other film, The Golden Compass.
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7 thoughts

  1. I love the story of Cinderella, but I’m not paying 15 bucks to watch it again with just new actors/voices. Seems weird they didn’t go the Maleficent route and mix things up.

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    1. An Evil Stepmother movie would have been weird and hard to market. But a Fairy Godmother movie? Now that’s a new direction.

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  2. I was just thinking I haven’t checked back with your blog in a while. Of course I’m going to watch this (being a Disney freak and all) but TBH there wasn’t anything that really struck out to me. I hoped that they may have added a special twist providing a reasoning for the live action…something along the lines of Maleficent…but I guess that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think I would have much preferred HBC as Lady Tremaine rather than the Fairy Godmother. I’m sure she’s hilarious but I think she could have played a horrible and fearful Lady Tremaine. Can’t wait to see the Frozen short, although from what I’ve read, it seems that it’s the first time in forever (sorry) that Elsa has gotten sick i.e. the tiny snowmen. Looking forward to Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast though. The cast for BatB look amazing.

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    1. Frozen Fever was fun, but certainly not worth paying the ticket price to see Cinderella (unless you really want to see Cinderella anyway).

      A few people in the theater laughed at times, and I think this is a fun Cinderella movie for people who’ve never seen Cinderella (or haven’t in a long time). I’d probably feel different about this movie if I hadn’t watched Ever After so much as a kid.

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  3. Just watched it and while there were quite a few things they could have explored I thought it was a beautiful film. I think that’s the thing with this movie. The props, set design, costumes, animations are very grand and magical. Kenneth Branner did have quite big shoes to fill (pardon the pun) takng on this icon from the Disney library, but I think he’s presented a visually stunning film. Great casting of Cate Blanchette – those eyes, and her finger when she tells Cindy not to go to the ball – and though her role was minor Helena Bonham Carter pulled of a great cheeky sarcastic “hairy bobfather”. I wish we could have seen more of her. I would have liked to find out more about Lady Tremaine’s backstory, but I feel lile if we did, we would forgive her wickedness and treat her as misunderstood, in much the same way ABC’s Once Upon A Time justifies the reasons for it’s villains actions. I went in as a sceptic but just enjoyed it. Frozen Fever was very cute. Great to see more of the Arendelle universe and the interaction between the two sisters which wasn’t really in Frozen.

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