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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.