“Cinderella” is a 113 minute PG Rated Fantasy/Adventure directed by Kenneth Branagh starring Lily James (Cinderella), Cate Blanchett (Lady Tremaine), Sophie McShera (Drizella), Helena Bonham Carter (Fairy Godmother), Richard Madden, (Prince Charming) and Holliday Grainger (Anastasia).
Young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her obnoxious stepmother and stepsisters after the sudden death of her father. But even though she is treated cruelly like a servant and maid, Ella (renamed “Cinder”-ella by her step-sisters) refuses to be unhappy. One day while horseback riding she meets a handsome stranger in the woods and does not know that he is a prince. The prince is enthralled by the mysterious, beautiful stranger and is determined to see her again. His ailing father, the King, is anxious to see his son marry before he dies so the palace plans an extravagant ball to entice all eligible bachelorettes. Ella is excited about the invitation, hoping to reunite with the handsome stranger who she believes is an apprentice at the castle. When her stepmother refuses to let her go, Ella receives unexpected help from an “old beggar” who turns out to have a very magical touch.
This is an updated, live-action reinvention of the classic 1950 animated movie whose story was inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of the same name. The screenplay deviates from the original script in a few ways yet preserves the essence of this ageless, classic tale. The sets, special effects and costumes are magnificent, especially the transformation of the pumpkin into the golden chariot and the mice / lizards into the horse and coachmen. I think “Cinderella” is an early favorite to win the Oscar for Best Costumes. I like the depiction of Cinderella as a kind, self-confident woman who is energized, rather than enraged, by the obnoxious treatment she receives at the hands of her malevolent step family.
Before she died, Ella’s mother told her that the secret of life is to “have courage and be kind”. This motto is repeated throughout the movie and gives it a wonderfully appealing tone. The casting/acting is terrific, especially Cate Blanchett as the mean stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. There are several positive messages, in addition to courage and kindness, including forgiveness and acceptance, epitomized when Ella realizes that “the greatest risk that one will ever take is to be seen as we truly are”. My only minor criticism is that it seems long and repetitive at times.
The movie is introduced by an 8- minute short film about the upcoming “Frozen” sequel which is annoying or enchanting depending on your perspective. I think “Cinderella” will appeal to young and old alike but especially to little girls. While exiting the theatre with an elderly gentleman who was by himself, I asked him “did you like this movie”? His smile widened and he replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “of course I liked it- it’s CINDERELLA”. I give “Cinderella” an 8.0 on the ABBONDANZOMETER (Scale of 1-10).