Disney has a captive audience and what better time to preview its upcoming attractions and entertain with a 10 minute short film with the animated stars of “Frozen.” The classic story that you credit to Walt Disney actually has its origins in France. Back in 1690, Charles Perrault told his version of Cinderella as Cendrillon. Since that time, the tale has been told around the world, in various versions, but keeping the evil step-mother, a ball, and a lost item. And of course, the happy ending.
Written by Chris Weitz and directed by one of my favorite directors, Kenneth Branagh, the film had hopes from the beginning. This 2015 version is rich in back story, filling in all the blanks that, as a child, didn’t seem necessary, but now make the story come to life. Ella, as her loving parents had named her, has an idyllic childhood full of love, laughter, and a uniquely positive outlook on life. But all that happiness comes to an end when Ella’s mother takes ill and dies. Ella grows into a beautiful young woman under the guidance of her father. As her father takes on a new wife, Ella’s life changes, but she has made a promise to her mother to always be kind and have courage. We now have the theme of the movie. Courage and kindness. These words are challenged with the demise of her loving father and the ever-increasing cruelty of her step-mother and insipid step-sisters. Well, you know how the story goes from here.
“Cinderella” is a vividly brilliant visual spectacle ; exactly what is expected from a Disney production. From the costumes to the backgrounds, every detail is painstakingly perfect. The roses are every shade of the rainbow. The horses are majestically handsome. Even the attic in which Cinderella is relegated to live is wonderfully dusty in all the right ways. This is a cinematic coup as children of all ages will be captivated by the sheer vibrancy before their eyes.
“Cinderella” leaves no stone unturned to make sure that every aspect of the story is told. The narration fills in where the dialogue and settings leave off. And leave it to Disney animators to bring such reality to the critters that Cinderella loves. The mice are particularly sweet which is difficult for me to say, but that is an entirely different story for another time. The mice, salamanders, and pumpkin all go through the enchanting metamorphosis thanks to the whimsical spells her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) casts. These skillful and seamlessly magical transformations are simply bewitching.
Yes, Cinderella is beautiful and rather buxom (I don’t recall that from the original Disney film). She’s blonde and sweet and always positive. Lily James captures her character on every level. Richard Madden is charming as the prince and the two step-sisters appear to have a fun time playing the ridiculously over-the-top evil girls. Cate Blanchett is one of the few women who could have pulled off such elegance and sophistication to her
character as evil step-mother. She is absolutely beautifully wicked. Stellan Skarsgard and Nonso Anozie as the Prince’s royal staff complete the robust and royal court.
The tale of Cinderella lives on with this new live action version. It’s where being “fashionably late” pays off and how we females begin at a very young age of dreaming of Prince Charming and living “happily ever after.” And to think that I used to blame Nicholas Sparks for that one. Sorry, Nick. The story remains the same at the very heart of it, but it is much more full and robust with detail. Sprinkled with humor and a little fairy dust, the film will entertain children who have always loved this story—and a few moms out there too. My only issue with the film is the unattainable tiny wasp waist and the majorly endowed women with distracting cleavage. It wasn’t an animated film—let’s not try to make the real people into an animation! Don’t get me started on the royal men’s clothing.
7 1/2 REELS