Once upon a time, Disney released the animated musical “Cinderella”. 65 years on, the story has been re-imagined in Kenneth Branagh’s cartoon-to-live adaptation.
Staying true to the original, the plot follows young Ella (Lily James) who, after the unexpected passing of her father, finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after a meeting with a dashing stranger.
Lily James brings enchantment and elegance to the role of Cinderella. The “Downton Abbey” star manages to provide a modern take on the role, while also staying true to the classic. However, it’s Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother whose performance glistens as brightly as Cinderella’s glass slipper. She makes her on-screen presence felt throughout with her extravagant outfits and feline malevolence.
The rest of the all-star cast also give excellent performances in their respective roles. “Game of Thrones” star Richard Madden proves a brilliant choice for the role of Prince Charming, whilst Helena Bonham Carter injects a dose of madness to the proceedings as the Fairy Godmother.
The comic relief in Cinderella comes predominantly from the stepsisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger), who amuse cinemagoers with moronic shenangigans. Rob Brydon and Alex Macqueen also provide their fair share of laugh out loud moments in their respective roles as Master Phineus and the Royal Crier.
Cinderella is brought to life through spectacular visuals. The large-scale special effects, especially when the pumpkin transforms into a carriage, are certainly something to be admired, along with the costume design by Sandy Powell, whose magnificent frocks add to the spectacle of the breathtaking ballroom scene.
The excellent production also embodies Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography, which has a lustrous shine to it and is beautifully complemented by Patrick Doyle’s charming orchestral score.
Nevertheless, the main issue with Cinderella is that it’s overly safe (presumably to accommodate the PG rating). The narrative is identical to the original 1950s classic and everything seems a little too perfect. With a few more risks, this could have been a runaway success.