Glass Slipper Fits Again
How many Cinderella movies can Hollywood moguls greenlight? As many as they want to, and I plan to see every one of them! Evidently, I am not alone. The first-day box office earnings for Cinderella (2015) exceeded 20 million dollars. And the release has created a great deal of excitement among fans of this age-old fairy tale, including movie addicts like me. As usual, I headed to the concession stand before the early morning screening, but this time forgot to collect my change on the counter until two ladies in line stopped me. “Oh dear,” I said. “I am so eager to see Cinderella that I can’t wait to get into the theater.” They both answered in unison, "So are we!”
Happily, we were not disappointed. Like the legendary glass slipper, everything about this live action version of Disney’s popular 1950 animated movie, fits. A few minor details have been changed, but the important elements remain intact and the message of “courage and kindness” shines through. Plus, the production values are outstanding, the actors give very watchable performances, and the glorious royal ball sequence simply takes your breath away. But the highlight of the film involves some eye-popping visual effects showing (in fascinating detail) how the mice change into white horses and the pumpkin into a golden carriage -- and then back again. Also, when the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter, wonderful in this role) transforms Cinderella’s ragged pink dress into a dazzling blue ball gown, I heard well-deserved "WOW" gasps from several people in the audience.
All cast members seem to be having a great time with their roles. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) comes across as an intelligent and dashing prince, just the right mate for Cinderella. In the title role, Lily James (Downton Abbey) projects an innocence combined with the courage to take a chance that could change Cinderella’s down-trodden life forever. These two young actors display terrific chemistry together on screen. Cate Blanchett (Veronica Guerin) hams it up a bit as the evil stepmother, but it’s hard to take your eyes off her. Cinderella’s cruel stepsisters are played comically by Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) and Sophie McShera (Downton Abbey). Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech) makes a dignified, even-handed king. However, Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland) almost steals the entire movie with her whimsical fairy godmother portrayal. And she also does a splendid job as the film’s narrator.
Kudos to Patrick Doyle (Brave) for Cinderella’s enchanting background music, to Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria) for the vibrant, fun costumes, to Hais Zambarloukas (Mamma Mia!) for the sweeping cinematography, and to Dante Ferreti (Hugo) for the elegant production design.
Under Kenneth Branagh’s (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) classy direction -- from a thoughtful screenplay by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass) -- this Cinderella rates as my second-best version, right below Ever After. Still, how I wish both films were musicals! In the case of the latest Cinderella, leading lady Lily James has a beautiful voice that we hear only briefly during the movie. Thankfully, she sings more as the end credits roll, so be sure to stay for that treat. She even serenades us with “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Disney’s animated Cinderella. Yay!
(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated “PG” for mild thematic elements.)
For more information about Cinderella, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.