Sixty-five years after their classic animated version of the Cinderella story, Disney has reimagined the tale into a lavish live action adventure.
Kenneth Branagh directs the story of Ella (James), who lives a happy life in the idyllic countryside until the death of her mother (Hayley Atwell). When her father (Ben Chaplin) marries Lady Tremaine (Blanchett, looking like a 30s Hollywood movie icon), she welcomes her new stepmother and stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) to her home, but when darling daddy dies, there’s no more money, the staff are dismissed, and poor Ella is shoved below stairs to take over.
Keeping reasonably closely to the best-known, traditional versions of the story (don’t expect any Princess Bride-style quirkiness here), this has Ella and the Prince (Madden) meeting in the forest without learning each other’s identity, and Ella’s fairy godmother (Bonham Carter) appearing as an old lady before transforming our heroine’s vegetables and pets into a stunning carriage, horses and footmen. It’s in this magical sequence that the movie truly begins to shine, as every girl, little and otherwise, gets to swoon over Cinderella’s beautiful gown as she goes off to the ball to meet the prince.
And while this is a little girl’s dream with all the true love, handsome prince stuff and gorgeous dresses (Blanchett gets some stunning frocks, too, and Bonham Carter is lovely in her white dress), there’s actually enough adventure and amusement to keep accompanying boys from bolting for the door. Everyone, male and female, will sit, bolt upright and wide-eyed, during the superb scene when the clock strikes midnight and the fairy godmother’s magic starts to unravel – it’s like a frenetic action sequence as the carriage starts to revert back to a pumpkin and the footmen – made from lizards – start to go scaly and develop forked tongues. Even if the idea of a girly fairytale fills you with dread, that scene alone is well worth the price of admission. And the rest – while traditional, instead of re-invented – is cute, well-paced and smartly scripted, too.
Is Cinderella (2015) suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Although suitable for most viewers, parents should note that little children may be upset by the death of Ella’s parents.