Cert: U / 113 mins / Dir. Kenneth Branagh / Trailer
When the BBFC card vanished from the screen today and the Steamboat Willie ident appeared in its place, I actually got a little tingle. Not the one I get when I hear the Marvel Studios fanfare, obviously, but a buzz nonetheless. Disney's recent efforts (with one notable exception) have entertained me greatly and built up a reputation that's going to be difficult to sustain, surely?
Well, the in-built precursor to Cinderella is an animated spin-off/featurette, Frozen Fever, reuniting the central characters for seven minutes; enough time to set up the premise and wedge in a musical number. It's quite fun, even though it feels rushed somehow (and Princess Elsa seems to have become more powerful than any Jedi in her telekinetic ice-wielding powers). An array of miniature snowmen are introduced, sneezed into existence by the cold-ridden Elsa, and they're incredibly cute (read: marketable), although you've also got to remember that they're essentially frozen snot ;)
And with the b-movie (in the nicest sense) over, the live-action retelling of an old Disney favourite began, and my inner-cynic made himself comfortable with a glint in his eye. As events transpired, the cynic wasn't there for long, because Cinderella is really good. There. I said it. With the studio, cast and director playing to their strengths, it's outstanding at being a good old-fashioned Disney Princess Film™, and that's the important thing here. During the setup first act, the format feels occasionally anachronistic, with recent Disney entries like Frozen and Maleficent pushing the princess-story into new territory. But these film's can't achieve what they do without having the core methodology as their counterpoint, of course, and 2015's Cinderella is Disney reminding the audience that they basically invented the genre anyway (at least cinematically).
While it could certainly be said that the film doesn't push the envelope in any way, shape or form, it's only fair to note that it never feels the need to. With the story already locked and loaded, the performers have a solid sense of direction, and leading, supporting and cameo roles alike are confident and focussed. Lily James is the perfect casting for Ella, supported by Cate Blanchett, Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera as her manipulative step-family, riding the line between horrible and pitiful with ease.
Although as earnest (and innuendo-free) as the first act is, it can't escape from the fact that between the 1950 animated film and the 2015 live-action iteration, Cinderella has become more of a pantomime-favourite than a fairytale one, and the Brit-centric cast reinforces this wholesale. Although they do, for the most part, play their roles completely straight, making for a stronger film as a result. The two exceptions to this are Rob Brydon, who's been cast in the role of Rob Brydon In A Hat™, and Helena Bonham Carter, whose role as the fairy godmother requires her to wear a set of prosthetic teeth so tremendously fierce that they prevent any part of her face above them from moving, making her look like she's been using botox as a moisturiser, somehow. And Richard Madden's research for his performance as The Prince appears to have been locking himself in a room with a copy of David Essex's showreel DVD. The man's one neckerchief away from going full rogue…
Oh, and [Facetiousness - highlight to read]: I'd thought that Ella's mum's advice in the trailer had lost its meaning in the edit, but that really is what she tells her. "Have courage and be kind" is hardly 'a secret', is it? Solid guidance, yes. Good life-advice, even. But it's not a secret. In fact, if "have courage and be kind" sees you dying of consumption before your 35th birthday while your husband spends a suspicious amount of time abroad, is it really a secret worth heeding? But there's my inner-cynic rising to the surface, again. And trust me, by the second act of Cinderella, my inner-cynic was all but defeated, lying on the shore gasping for air, too weak to take the piss out of the film. [/Facetiousness]
Under Kenneth Branagh's fantastic direction which keeps things from descending into silliness, Cinderella is great at being Cinderella, and while it may not be a creative interpretation in the mould of Maleficent, it at least makes some reparation for the farce that was Into The Woods.
If your miniature humans are pestering you to take them to a movie over the Easter holidays and you can't palm them off with a DVD, this is the one.
If you're in the target demographic or you just like well-made films, yes.
For its audience, it'll be a buyer.
I shouldn't think so, but everyone involved can proudly wield it on their CV, yes.
Not that I heard.
Wicked stepmother Cate Blanchett starred as Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, alongside Sir Christopher 'Dooku' Lee.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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