Movie a Day Blog went to CINDERELLA (2015, Theatrical) grudgingly, wondering aloud why in God’s name we needed another Cinderella movie.
Hadn’t she just been parodied in INTO THE WOODS (2014, Movie a Day 12/19/14)? Hasn’t Disney made multiple animated versions after the classic 1950 original, several going direct to home video? Does it always have to be a “bibbitybobbityboo” kind of day?
I can’t see Kenneth Branagh, who started out directing HENRY V (1989) and now has descended to the level of this film and THOR (2011, Movie a Day Blog 7/21/11) completely redeemed his version of CINDERELLA, but at least he made it enjoyable to watch.
I can’t remember a movie in which all the dialogue is enunciated so perfectly and clearly. The setting may be 1840s France (although some other kingdom exists there with a king and a prince and a castle that closely resembles the logo of some multi-billion dollar conglomerate), but the actors are mostly British and very stiff upper lip.
They include the lead, Lily James of “Downton Abbey” fame, the Prince, Richard Madden of “Game of Thrones” fame and Sophie McShera, another alum of “Downton Abbey.” Do we detect a trend here? The newest casting source is high quality cable and streaming programming, no matter where it comes from.
Branagh does a valiant job in trying to inject some life into the most familiar of stories — Cinderella has become a generic term, applied to everything from sports to politics — and he succeeds in only fits and starts.
The two best sequences in the film are the transformation scenes when mice, salamanders and pumpkins become horses, a carriage and footmen, and then revert at the stroke of midnight. The filmmakers make good use of contemporary CGI technology without overwhelming the rest of the movie.
The other delight, if you can stand her over-emoting, is Cate Blanchett as a sinister fashionista Evil Stepmother — on the level of this performance, perhaps her identity should be in all caps. Blanchett looks like she’s having a glorious time becoming a little more cruel and nasty in each successive scene, until she is left with her just reward at the end.
Helena Bonham Carter trots out an addled fairy Godmother, and Derek Jacobi looks bewildered even to be in the movie as the King who seems ready to die throughout the film’s running time.
Branagh and company try in vain to elevate CINDERELLA into something it’s not: a real movie with real characters who face real dilemmas in their lives.
What does become abundantly clear as the dazzling costumes and sumptuous sets accumulate is the real reason for this refurbished CINDERELLA: the Disney Princess machine.
There are licensed Princeess Parties, official Disney Princess cruises (hopefully not on the ill-fated Princess Cruise Line), multiple lines of clothing for all hours of waking and sleeping. Do you still wonder why CINDERELLA had her cinders brushed off and her gown refitted?
It’s a little depressing that we’re all so vulnerable to this kind of insidious corporate marketing and manipulation, and I’m an adult. What about the millions of girls who take this stuff seriously, beyond the familiar stuff of fantasy and fairy tales, and into the realm of billions of dollars in revenue from actualizing those dreams.
Maybe it’s not so insidious after all. Disney has put a Princess standee in most of the theaters playing CINDERELLA. They’re telling us what they’re doing; it’s just a message that a lot of little girls will pay to hear.