Review: CINDERELLA (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Review: CINDERELLA (2015)

This live-action version of CINDERELLA is formulaic, but competently acted and visually ravishing cinematic experience.

Throughout the decades since the Walt Disney's animated classic of CINDERELLA in 1950, there were countless versions of the Cinderella fairytale mythology being retold over and over again. Among them are THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955), EVER AFTER (1998), A CINDERELLA STORY (2004) and ELLA ENCHANTED (2004). While live-action fairytale movies nowadays are mostly revisionist versions aimed for the modern generation (e.g. 2012's SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and 2014's MALEFICENT), Kenneth Branagh's live-action take of Walt Disney's CINDERELLA does the opposite by going for the straightforward approach instead.


In this live-action version of CINDERELLA, 10-year-old Ella (Eloise Webb) used to live a blissful life with her loving parent (Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell). Then, tragedy strikes when Ella's mother died and her last words were "have courage and be kind". As years go by, Ella eventually grows up as a beautiful young teenager (now played by Lily James) and her father subsequently remarries another woman. Soon, Ella welcomes her new stepmother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her two bratty daughters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) into the family home.

One day, her father was unexpectedly passed away during one of his business trips. After the family finances have collapsed and all the servants left, Ella is forced to do all the chores and works like a slave. As Ella's life becomes miserable day by day, she is fortunate enough to meet a handsome prince (Richard Madden).


Kenneth Branagh's direction is adequate, but it was the elaborate visual feast throughout the movie that simply works like a charm. The special effects, be it for the digitally rendered animals or the magnificent kingdom, are top notch. Dante Ferretti's lavish and eye-catching production design is especially noteworthy, and kudos also go to Sandy Powell's enchanting costume design and Haris Zambarloukos' fluid, yet sumptuous cinematography as well as Patrick Doyle's poignant string-laden score.

Lily James (of TV's Downton Abbey) gives a wonderfully sweet, yet heartfelt performance as the title character. Richard Madden (of TV's Game of Thrones) is spot-on with his charismatic performance playing the handsome prince, while Cate Blanchett is perfectly typecast as the evil stepmother. The rest of the supporting actors are equally notable, and Helena Bonham Carter almost steals the show with her colourful cameo as the Fairy Godmother.


The magical transformation sequence that involves the Fairy Godmother turning Cinderella into a princess, and the lavish ball sequence where Cinderella dressed beautifully in a flowing blue gown, are two of the most dazzling moments in the movie.

Despite a few alterations here and there, Chris Weitz's screenplay feels shopworn. Frankly, there is nothing wrong about sticking with the formula and delivers the movie in an old-school manner. But after all these years of various incarnations of Cinderella movies, a mere straightforward approach alone simply isn't enough to make the story sustainable. Then there's the supposedly inspiring lines of "have courage and be kind" that repeats throughout the movie, which feels kind of annoying.


Although this live-action version of CINDERELLA is hardly a classic by any means, at least it was a mile better than last year's overrated MALEFICENT (also produced by Walt Disney). By the way, don't miss FROZEN FEVER, an animated short film that screened prior to CINDERELLA feature presentation.

This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia IMAX press screening *  

No comments: