Movie Review: ‘CINDERELLA’ – The First Magical Surprise of the Year

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Cole Clay // Film Critic


CINDERELLA | 112 min | Rated PG
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Derek Jacobi and Helena Bonham Carter

In true capitalist fashion, Disney is now converting all of their classic animated films into live action spectacles, hoping the crew crop of young un’s will revere the rehash as much as the pristine original. But, what happens when adults love this movie as much as the kids? There is no reason why CINDERELLA should be this incredible. The familiar story has been put in the hands of the excellent director Kenneth Branagh (THOR, HENRY V) and has been transformed into a magical piece of filmmaking.

Branagh crafts this fairy tale as a straight up adaptation– just without the song and dance conceit. Coupled with astounding production design and jovial acting, this film is aesthetically pleasing and infinitely delightful.

Lily James (DOWNTON ABBEY) is in the lead as Ella (aka Cinderella), a girl who finds the good in every situation no matter how dire the circumstances. And Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine (aka the wicked stepmother) comes in like a sickness that slowly but surely sucks the idealism out of her subordinates.

What Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz do so well is they decided to give Lady Tremaine some humanity, rather just making her a wicked witch hellbent on arbitrarily ruining lives. This extraordinary film has all the elements of a new Disney classic: sympathetic characters, a magical world to explore and a playful tone that makes this film for kids and adults alike.

Once again, there is no reason why this film should be this good with last years’ MALEFICENT being such a dud. But this gives hope for the upcoming live action adaptations of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE JUNGLE BOOK and DUMBO.

CINDERELLA opens today.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.