It’s been sixty-five years since the original animated Cinderella was first released into theaters, and in that time, there have been countless remakes and reimagining of the classic story, many of them done by Disney itself. With the newest incarnation of Cinderella, Disney has given the iconic character a live-action makeover with hopes of catapulting the outdated princess into the 21st Century.
With director Kenneth Branagh at the helm, this version of Cinderella is less of a reimagining and more of a straight remake, as the story is almost the same one originally seen in 1950. For those hoping for something more akin to Disney’s Maleficient, which provided a bolder twist on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella is likely to disappoint.
Cinderella offers little in terms of surprises, but rather, is content to simply retell the classic story with only a few subtle modernizations, primarily in terms of Cinderella’s previously flat character. For better or worse though, this is the very same story first seen over sixty-years ago, and audience’s enjoyment of it will depend on how willing they are to accept that.
Now, I’ve been a fan of fairy tales since I was a kid, and while I fully acknowledge that this movie is in no way geared towards me, I was still left disappointed that it didn’t even try and deepen Cinderella’s story in any way. It came close to it at times, but then backed off just when I thought it was about to surprise me.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the classic story has proven to be perfectly fine the way it is, but both my little sister and I walked away wishing that this new Cinderella had done more to make itself stand out from the countless other Cinderella-like stories out there.
The movie’s greatest strength, however, is its cast, as everyone involved here plays theirs parts perfectly. Lily James is the newest actress to play Cinderella, and as can be expected, she does a great job at capturing the character’s signature charm and sincerity.
While the plot keeps her away from any complex character development, she’s charming from beginning to end and offers some subtle, albeit important, tweaks on the classic character that help bring her into the modern century.
The same can be said for Richard Madden, who plays the righteous Prince. He’s likable and has some strong chemistry with James, and he actually imbues his character with a real personality. Outside of a few brief, but still touching, moments with his ailing father, however, the Prince never gets any profound character development either, and sticks pretty close to the formula.
The rest of the cast is strong as well, with the stand outs being Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother and Derek Jacobi as the King. While both have small roles, they make a definite impression with what they’re given, and in Carter’s case, star in one of the film’s best moments.
The strongest bit of casting, however, comes from Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s vicious stepmother. Blanchett eats up every line she’s given, and wholly embraces her over-the-top character in the best of ways. She’s harsh, brutal, and cold-hearted, and Blanchett is obviously having a great time with it.
She imbues her scenes with an intensity that livens up the movie in a much needed way, but she never becomes so overpowering that she steals the spotlight from Cinderella. The plot even came close to making her character relatable with some new backstory, but once again, it’s only briefly touched upon, as delving into it any deeper would’ve left younger audience members out of the loop.
However, as a movie geared strictly towards children, the movie is an undeniable success. From start to finish, Cinderella is a magical, enjoyable, and classically relatable story that is sure to enchant young audiences just as much today as it did back in 1950.
While the story hasn’t changed that much, although it’s definitely not a musical anymore, it’s still a charming experience that is made even better thanks to director Kenneth Branagh’s fantastic scene direction and pacing. Indeed, it’s probably Branagh’s work behind the camera that makes Cinderella such a success.
Every shot of the movie is oozing with charm and beauty, and the way Branagh captures it all so effortlessly is a testament to both his skills as a director and his understanding of the sanctity of the story he’s been entrusted with. The special effects are impressive as well, although not breathtakingly so, and add that extra layer of magic that will undoubtedly impress the kids.
Cinderella has proven time and time again that it is a story that can endure anything that’s thrown at it, and Disney’s most recent remake just continues to prove that. While it borders on being a missed opportunity at times, it’s still a sincere and delightful fairy tale that will likely enchant a whole new generation of fans