There’s no point in going over the plot of this movie. If you don’t know Cinderella, you’re probably not old enough to read. This adaptation takes direct influence from the 1950’s animated version. Cinderella is fairly played by Lily James, Cate Blanchett is the wicked Stepmother, Richard Madden is Prince Charming (or ‘Kit’ as he is called in this movie) and Helena Bonham Carter is the Fairy Godmother. The mice from the animated version are also back although they don’t talk.
At times this movie will feel like a long in the tooth version of a story we already know. There are several moments that are flat out “role your eyes” cheesy; moments that only the starry eyed little girls in the audience will enjoy. But what Director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) does wonderfully is give perhaps the most thorough version of the fairy tale ever. For the first time, characters are given depth. Lady Tremaine is more than just a cold-hearted wench who makes Cinderella’s life a living hell just out of spite. She is a beautiful, heartbroken woman unfortunately driven by jealousy and shame for her two dimwitted daughters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger). Cate Blanchett’s layered performance is perhaps the emotional core of the story.
This film also manages to fill in all of the tiny details to make the tale more cohesive. We no longer have to leave the theater wondering how no one in the kingdom shares Cinderella’s shoe size. The movie also doesn’t skim on the sheer scope and grandeur. The effects are nice, but the costumes and sets are absolutely breathtaking.
Last summer’s Maleficent felt like an unnecessary re-imagining and it didn’t quite flow. So it is probably a good thing that this Cinderella sticks close to the well known tale. Yes, it’s just Cinderella. And sometimes that makes it boring. But at least it is a well acted, well written version of a story we’ve heard over and over again.
FINAL GRADE: B+