I was a little bit concerned when Disney announced they were doing a live-action adaptation of their 1950 animated Cinderella film. Adapting animation to live action does not always work very well, and why mess with a beloved classic film? In this case, however, Disney has another classic on their hands with their latest Cinderella adaptation.
The story from the original is pretty much still there, with allowances made for what works better in live action, and a fair bit more time spent on showing Ella’s relationships with her father and mother. There are some real tear-jerker, powerful moments which establish a good background to the rest of the film.
The scene where Ella’s mother dies was handled very well and drove home how much the members of the family love each other. Ella also receives great advice from her mother (geek moment: played by Hayley Atwell, a.k.a., Agent Carter), which carries her through the story: Have courage and be kind.
The younger Ella, while having only a few minutes of screen time, is well played by Eloise Webb. Lily James picks up the torch from Webb and continues the excellent acting through the rest of Cinderella, showing Ella as simultaneously strong and courageous as well as unflinchingly kind, even in some very tough situations. Ella is not unrealistically kind, either. I have known people who are every bit as kind as Ella is portrayed here. Ella’s father is lovingly played by Ben Chaplin such that there is no doubt he truly loves his daughter (and her mother).
Cate Blanchett plays a great evil stepmother, a stark contrast to her strong and good Galadriel role from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. I could tell she was having great fun in the role. Helena Bonham Carter was delightful as the fairy godmother, slightly ditzy but still a very kind soul and a great judge of character. The Prince, played by Richard Madden, was down to earth and sincere.
In fact, I think all of the cast did an excellent job. Everything in Cinderella was top notch work: the costumes, the music, the sets, the special effects. Everything pulled me into the film and immersed me in the story. It was so alive and vibrant. Speaking of the costuming, the two stepsisters’ ball gowns looked like a dye store had taken ill upon them, then rolled them in every color of glitter and shimmery chiffon known to mankind. I almost wanted to take out my eyes to avoid seeing them. I suspect that was the point, though.
The music, by the versatile Patrick Doyle, complemented the story perfectly. My favorite song was the one Ella remembered her mother singing to her: “Lavender’s Blue“, a traditional English folk song. Sadly, it is not listed as being on the soundtrack release for the film; James has a beautiful voice, so its omission is disappointing.
I must also mention the short film, Frozen Fever: It is delightful! It shows Elsa trying to set up the birthday celebrations for Anna while refusing to believe she actually has a cold. All of the main characters are back, and the end result is a fun and enjoyable extension to the Frozen universe.
Cinderella is a wonderful film which will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. There is something for everyone in this film, and this is destined to become another classic in the Disney legacy. The film has depth to the story, the characters (even the minor ones) are interesting and accessible, and the message of “have courage and be kind” is applicable to everyone. I highly recommend it!
Release Date: March 13, 2015 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (social drinking)
Violence: 1 (stepmother and stepsisters smash things and assault Ella’s dress while she’s in it)