By Gary Murray
Starring Cate Blanchette, Lily James and Richard Madden
Written by Chris Weitz
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Running time 112 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Cinderella is one of the classic fairy tale stories that have been told to sleeping little girls for generations. The tale has magic, wonder and a happily ever after ending.
The most successful telling of the story is the Disney version. Walt Disney said that the animation of Cinderella getting her ball dress with the transformation of the carriage were the best single scenes ever done by his studio.
Lately, the Disney Corporation have taken their animated films and turned them into live action flicks. We’ve seen Alice in Wonderland and the studio is making Beauty and the Beast. Out now is Cinderella.
The story starts with Ella as a young girl. She is a happy child with a strong loving father and a beautiful young caring mother. Mom instills all that is good.
Mom dies. Many years go by and Dad decides to remarry. Enter the stepmother (Cate Blanchette) and her two daughters Anastasia (Holiday Grainger) and Driella (Sophie McShera). They are horrible to Ella.
Tragedy befalls the household for a second time and Ella is now an orphan. She tries to make the most of it and puts on a very brave face. But, there is little money left and changes have to be made.
Eventually, all the servants are let go and Ella has to take over all of the household chores. With ash embers on her face, the step-sisters dub Ella Cinderella (Lily James).
One day, Cinderella becomes fed-up and takes a ride in the forest. There she meets the Prince (Richard Madden). He tells her that he is an apprentice and Cinderella has no idea that he is the future ruler. She is off before he even finds out her name but he is smitten by the country lass..
The king is weak and dying. Different individuals have agendas to marry the Prince off to a wealthier kingdom to assure political powers. Marrying for love is not thought of with royalty.
The story finally takes a turn to the familiar, with the helpful mice, the eventual ball where the commoner are invited and the fairy god mother. There is the transformation of the coach (played for laughs) and the running of Cinderella at midnight. We also get a better explanation as to why the wicked step-mother is so horrible to Cinderella.
The film races to a happily ever after ending that should be pleasing to all the little girls in attendance and their mothers who are dragged along. This is not a film for he-man men but they may find themselves enjoying the proceedings despite themselves.
Cindrella is directed by Kenneth Branagh, a man more attuned with Shakespeare than fairy tales. He delivers a strong story and fills in many details left out of the original shorter version of the film. While he does not capture all the magical moments of the animated film, he does give more parts of the story.
He found a great cast with young Lily James as our titled character. She fleshes out the two dimensional animated character into a much fuller individual. While still being the lovely young waif, she is also the put upon sister.
The film does become a showcase for Kate Blanchette and he does bad very well. She is a horrible person and her explanation at the end to Cinderella falls a bit flat. By trying to make her a more sympathetic character it also makes her a weaker character.
This is a fairy tale and should be taken as such. It is a trifle of a story that should entertain the little ones and be tolerable for the adults. The film, more than anything, makes the audience long for the animated version with singing mice.