Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cinderella (2015)

Short version - It's a sweet, pretty, very well executed live action version of the story you already know. There are no big surprises, no grim and gritty overtones applies, no political statements shoehorned in. If you already want to see it, you'll love it. If you don't, you probably won't.

Like most people, I saw the original trailer and my first thought was, "Do we really need another version of Cinderella?" And the basic answer is no, not really. We didn't need this movie. But I'm not sad that it's here.

It is very strongly based on the Disney animated classic, with a number of references (including an amazing body double of Lucifer). And yet it also shares a great deal of tone with Drew Barrymore's Ever After (to the point that I thought that Ella's father was the actor who did Prince Henry). The message is less about being a strong woman, though, and is more about the power of kindness. Cinderella makes some strong points about how a woman can be courageous without having to raise her voice or lift a sword.

There are a couple interesting little twists to the plot. One is a justification for the stepmother's evil. She's not exonerated, as she's still evil. But she isn't cruel just for the sake of being cruel, as Lady Tremaine in the animated version was. The second is a strange subplot involving the Grand Duke. I won't spoil it, but he's not quite the genial bumbler from the animated version.

One of the fun things was spotting easter eggs. How many Disney princesses could you identify in the background at the ball? How many former Cinderellas had cameos? There were a number of really fun bits for fans.

I will say that the acting was surprisingly superb. Sure, Cate Blanchett, Derek Jacobi, and Stellan Skarsgard. But Lily James (Ella) was wonderful. This may not come as a surprise to those who watch Downton Abbey, but I don't. Richard Madden (the Prince) was also very good. Again, people who know him as Robb Stark might be going "duh", but I'm not in that number. Maybe I need to watch more TV. I also always love to watch Nonso Anozie, even though he doesn't get much room to stretch in this role. Oh, and I was surprised to see Hayley Atwell's name in the credits, as I didn't even recognize her.

My recommendation is fairly straightforward, because the movie is fairly straightforward. If you like the story of Cinderella, you will like this rendition. It is nearly perfectly executed. But it is the story of Cinderella, with very little new to entice those who have formerly rejected it. If you turn your nose up at fairy godmothers, love at first sight, and happy endings, then you should steer clear.

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