Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter
Having been adapted for the screen so many times, Cinderella’s rag to riches story is now such a timeworn tale that it more closely resembles a dusty old attic than a shining glass slipper. But with Disney seemingly determined to dig up the entirety of their animated back catalogue and reimagine each of them in live-action form (Beauty & The Beast and Dumbo are both currently in the works), the chances of another ‘Cinderella story’ was all but guaranteed.
You know the drill by now. Young Cinderella (Lily James) finds herself at the mercy of her evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and ugly stepsisters (Sophie McShera & Holliday Grainger) following the death of her father (Ben Chaplin). However, a chance for future happiness soon presents itself in the form of a dashing prince (Richard Madden) and a magical fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter).
Unlike last year’s Maleficent, which did try to draw something new from age-old material, this readaptation simply strives to stay faithful to its source. And as such, it comes off as quite a futile endeavour.
To the credit of director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz, the true morals of the story are given far more weight and emphasis here, particularly in the final scenes. But for the most part Cinderella is a film that suffers from quite a scruffy script. Certain elements, namely the inclusion of the mice and the cat, fail to translate so seamlessly from the animated original and feel wildly out of place, while Weitz’ dialogue is so fundamentally lacking in wit that Branagh has to shoehorn in cameos from the likes of Rob Brydon just to get a few laughs.
Even if he struggles to draw much that’s new from the story though, Branagh still provides more than enough to keep you fully engaged throughout. Visually, it’s a magical and majestic treat that’s bursting with brio and laced with lavish costumes courtesy of Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti’s gorgeous grand set designs. And Patrick Doyle’s surging score complements it all.
The performances meanwhile, are perfectly pitched. Lily James is natural and angelic in the lead role, offering a Cinderella character that does indeed come across as a positive role model. And Cate Blanchett chews most the scenery around with great gusto as Cinder’s robust and ruthless stepmother.
Unfortunately, some of the other characters fail to make as much of an impression. Richard Madden’s Prince for example, who despite being undeniably handsome has such a flat personality that he’s more charmless than Charming. Thankfully though, Cinderella as a whole does have enough charm to peak your interest, even if the vanilla script and inescapable sense of pointlessness prevents it from sparkling like a shiny glass slipper.