Review: Remake Is True 'Cinderella' Story
Disney Breathes New Life Into 'Cinderella' by Transforming Their Animated Classic Into a Live-action Feature Film.
USA Today, 28 February 2015
With its vibrant sparkle and enchanting visuals, 'Cinderella' almost makes you believe in magic.
The oft-told story has a surprisingly fresh exuberance. Nearly everything in this Disney live-action fairy tale is charmingly conveyed, while still faithful to the 1950 animated classic.
Most of all, it's a visual treat. The lavish production design is baroque and meticulous, down to the detailed appliques on the dazzling costumes and individual beads on the palace chandeliers. While the gowns at the ball are a swirl of gorgeous hues, the sumptuous dresses worn by Cate Blanchett — a superb villain as Cinderella's fashion plate of an evil stepmother— are even more arresting.
With her sweet, open face, 'Downton Abbey's' Lily James makes a delightful and unaffected Cinderella. She begins life as Ella, buoyed by a happy childhood. Her dying mother's (Hayley Atwell) entreaty: have courage and be kind. Ella makes those words her mantra.
She cheers on her father (Ben Chaplin) as he seeks a second chance for happiness and marries the imperious Lady Tremaine (Blanchett). Ella calmly rises above the shabby way she's treated by her surly and silly stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera). She even embraces her stepmother's pampered feline Lucifer, the original grumpy cat.
Ella protects the coterie of mice she considers friends from the jaws of Lucifer. The computer-generated rodents and their quasi-human voices are rather jarring, seeming more like the stepchildren of the singing mice in 'Babe'. However, the scene in which they're magically transmogrified into noble steeds is an exhilarating whirl.
When a garden-variety pumpkin morphs into a gilded coach, we know it's coming, but it's still gasp-inducing in its beauty. Helena Bonham Carter is appealing and playful as Cinderella's glam fairy godmother. Paying homage to the animated version, her magic tricks are achieved with a "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo."
Blanchett brings a new dimension to the role of wicked stepmother, providing a glimpse of what has made her so venomous. Only an actress as adept as Blanchett can take a role so easy to caricature and bring to it such subtle shading.
In contrast, the spiteful, oafish stepsisters are dully cartoonish, dressed alike in garish costumes.
Director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz have grounded this romantic tale with sincerity amid the dazzle. When Cinderella rushes past the king at the ball just before midnight, she tells him how much his son loves him.
Ella (nastily renamed Cinderella by her stepfamily) meets Prince Charming (Richard Madden)while on horseback in the forest. He introduces himself as Kit, an apprentice at the palace, rather than a royal soon to inherit the throne. When she sees he's part of a large hunting party, the animal-loving Ella persuades him not to kill a stag. Why do something simply because it's done, she asks?
Her admonition resonates with the sensitive Kit, who chafes at the traditional strictures of his position. Soon, the king (Derek Jacobi) announces they are throwing a ball. Everyone knows what comes next. It's a testament to Branagh that he stages it so that the audience is both comforted by the familiar and enraptured by the stunning way it's carried out.
The romantic musical score by composer Patrick Doyle has a lovely timelessness that suits the iconic material.
While it doesn't have the catchy songs of 'Enchanted', or the witty dialogue of 'The Princess Bride', 'Cinderella' enthralls with its ravishing style and timeless message of resilience, decency and kindness triumphing over evil.