The fairytale princess stories have been with us since before the written word. And no one has done it with more frequency and success than Disney. Now with the animated versions of the classic tales secured firmly in the public consciousness the mighty mouse is rearing its head at live action versions of the fairy tale. With the help of Mr. Shakespeare himself, director Kenneth Branagh they pretty much succeed on this new front as well with “Cinderella”.
As I said just about everyone knows the story and while a few details have been updated for this version, the central story remains intact, Ella, is a simple country girl with a loving mother and father, until in true Disney form, tragedy strikes and Ella is forced to live with her two step-sisters and the ever present wicked step-mother played by the always incredible Cate Blanchett who does not ham it up, or play the role over the top, she’s just enough wicked for the time period that’s portrayed and not just a evil monster. When Cinderella’s chance to see Kit (Richard Madden) a young man she met in the woods who she doesn’t know is the prince looking for his princess, she gets some help from her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to get her to the royal ball. With CG that feels a little dated and not up to todays standards director Branagh and writer Chris Weitz manage to stick to the numbers. Which, the more I think about it, it was probably the way to go here. The whole film is spent with Cinderella, developing her as a character we all know as the innocent victim, but as played by newcomer Lily James with a blend of strength and beauty that was not captured in the more well-known animated form.
This could have easily been a disaster, change too much and it’s not the story people have loved for decades, don’t change enough and it’s boring and lifeless. True, gone are the songs, but the magic is still present in this version of “Cinderella” where director Branagh has created a new classic for a new generation of little princesses. Children will love the story, and the adults will appreciate the drama of relationships between mothers & fathers and their children. Most of all I appreciate that we won’t be subjected to a sequel of this version of “Cinderella”, though I have to admit that I was among the group of people who enjoyed 2007’s “Cinderella III: A Twist in Time”.
–Robert L. Castillo