Whilst the necessity for a Cinderella remake can certainly be brought into question, the filmmaking talent behind this new version of the Disney classic certainly can’t be. This is classic Kenneth Branagh filmmaking – filled with such pomp, style and scale that it’s hard not to be drawn in.
Points, however, will not be awarded for originality here. This is the exact same Cinderella story that everyone who ever had a childhood knows. A downtrodden girl (Lily James) meets her Prince Charming (Richard Madden) and she lives happily ever after. The same old debates as to what the actual moral of the story is here remain – (Be a good girl and a man will whisk away all of your troubles?) – but regardless, it’s a classic Disney tale, and director Branagh has gone for an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. That’s not a deal breaker at all here, as it’s done with a great deal of respect to the original animated movie, but again it draws into question why the film was really needed. It’s not a modern retelling, it’s simply a live action alternative, essentially.
Having said that, the film does have a lot going for it still. The lavish production design is particularly impressive, along with the costume design, which captures the fantastical nature of the film perfectly. Cinderella’s home is impressive in scale, whilst feeling warm and homely – a place it’s easy to understand why Cinders would choose to stay after her Step Mother puts her to task.
The ‘evil’ Step Mother duties fall to Cate Blanchett, who is excellent in her role, taking delight in Cinderella’s woes. Her two daughters, the delightfully named Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) add to Cinderella’s torment, and they work well in combination with Blanchett’s eternally scowling Step Mother, who looks upon them with pride and disdain in equal measures. Of the trio Blanchett comfortably steals the show however.
As for Cinders herself, Downton Abbey’s Lily James takes the lead role, and she does a fine job in portraying the character’s bottomless pool of positivity and kindness. This is by far her biggest lead role to date, and she fits the role like her character fits the glass slipper.
As the film progresses to its climax, the fantastical elements naturally ramp up, as with the animated version, but for me the strongest fantastical elements are in the smaller moments – such as Cinderella’s interactions with her home’s many furry inhabitants, rather than the larger scale fairy tale scenes of magical pumpkins and transforming geese (although the goose does get the best line of the movie). Whether this is a reflection on the execution of the larger scale moments, or whether it’s simply that the smaller, more personal story of a young girl dealing with the loss of her family is just more interesting, is up for debate.
Cinderella perhaps doesn’t have as much family appeal as, for example, Paddington, however it will surely go down well with the younger audience, whilst reminding us oldies that there is a lot of fun to be had with a bit of old fashioned Disney magic.
A proudly traditional retelling of the animated Disney classic of the same name, Cinderella is a beautifully assembled fairy tale. Whether or not the world really needed a Cinderella remake is a whole different matter all together, but a matter that holds the film back slightly nonetheless.
Rating (out of 5):