Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. (2015, 105 min). WALT DISNEY
I was admittedly apprehensive when Disney commenced remaking some of their animated classics as live action films. After all, a majority of those old movies are cinematic sacred cows still watched and loved by millions (not to mention repeatedly repackaged, remastered and re-released on video for decades). What exactly is the point of remaking these things, especially the ones based on fairy tales, most of which are public domain and have been adapted dozens of times by others over the years?
But after watching Cinderella, I might just jump onboard Disney's current master plan. Unlike Tim Burton’s godawful Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s new Cinderella is a true remake of their own classic. There’s no modern spin on the tale, no tongue-in-cheek quirkiness, no gritty layer of darkness to appease those who think they’re above this kind of stuff (in fact, I’m still wondering why it even has a PG rating). A few narrative changes notwithstanding, this is Disney retelling the same traditional tale everyone fell in love with in the 1950s.
At the same time, it isn’t a pointless retread. There’s a lot more character depth here, especially regarding Prince Charming (Richard Madden). Even the staunchest fan of the 1950 version must concede the original prince had about as much personality as a trout. Here, he’s just as well-rounded as Cinderella herself, and the relationship between he and his father is terrific. The same could be said about Lady Tremaine (a nice bit of scenery chewing by Cate Blanchett). Sure, she’s still despicable, but we’re now made aware of what made her that way. That aside, director Kenneth Branagh touches on all the highlights which made the original film so iconic, only with a great cast and modern visual effects (neither of which overwhelm the story).
Speaking of visuals, this film is absolutely gorgeous to look at, from the colorful set design, epic landscapes, elaborate costumes, right down to the rendering of Cinderella’s many animal friends. It’s the kind of film definitely meant to be seen of the big screen, or at least a big-ass TV.
While there are absolutely no narrative surprises, Disney made the right move by resurrecting a tried-and-true formula that served them well for decades, rather than ‘reimagining’ the story. This version of Cinderella isn’t necessarily better than the original, but despite my initial cynicism, I can’t imagine anyone (along with their kids) not enjoying it just as much.
- Animated Short: "Frozen Fever"
- Deleted Scenes including an Alternate Opening
- Featurettes: "A Fairy Tale Comes to Life"; "Staging the Ball"; "Ella's Furry Friends"; Costume Design Montage (the closest thing there is to a gag reel)
- DVD & Digital Copies