When Disney started making moves to launch a live-action series of motion pictures based upon the animated classics from their long-running library, many viewers (like myself) wondered whether it was a good idea to mine the archives. After all, the classics are untouchable, iconic pieces of cinematic history, and in the case of certain fairy tale-based characters, they’ve been done so many times in so many formats, that another telling just seems redundant. But once you see a film like Kenneth Branagh’s CINDERELLA, it becomes apparent that the tale can once again be beautiful and fresh, renewed for current and future generations in a manner that stands on its own.
Rather surprisingly, the PG-rated CINDERELLA in many ways plays “lighter” than its animated counterpart, with the Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her offspring (Holliday Grainger & Sophie McShera) coming off more cartoon-ishly wicked in-the-flesh than in ink. Here we learn how “Ella” became “Cinderella,” with an endearing performance by Lily James, truly embodying the underlying message of kindness and selflessness – a message that’s always fantastic for younger audiences to see.
From a visual standpoint, the production design is stellar – putting a real-world “period” feel on Cinderella’s environment without taking it into the flashy or over-the-top realm which would’ve been easy to expect. Even the more tricky elements – such as the trio of mice, a carriage that turns into a pumpkin, and a fumbling goose, all come off as believable, even on repeat viewings.
Among a host of bonus features and making-of materials is the FROZEN FEVER theatrical short that played in front of CINDERELLA in theaters earlier this year. If the kids don’t already have the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection (reviewed here), that’s almost worth the price of admission by itself… though my girls are still disappointed that it’s not a feature-length sequel… every single time that they watch it.
CINDERELLA is highly recommended, and available now.