It’s interesting to look at how the treatment of fairy tales in pop culture has changed in such a short period of time. At the dawn of the 21st century, Shrek became a phenomenon, and soon, a flood of content was made revolving around lampooning fairy tales. Then, in 2010, Tangled and Alice In Wonderland brought well-known fairy tales to life in a far less cynical manner to huge box office numbers. This had led to such popular entities like Once Upon A Time, Frozen, and the subject of this review, Cinderella, which treat fairy tales with more reverence.
That kind of reverence is a primary reason for Cinderella’s inability to become a truly fulfilling entity, especially in regards to the stories main characters, which are translated from past adaptations of this story (mainly the 1950 Disney version), but not given any unique or compelling characteristics. Cinderella (Lily James) for instance only seems to thrive on telling people about the virtues of kindness instead of having some sort of memorable personality.
The Prince (Richard Madden) similarly lacks charm of any kind, and it’s hard to see why Cinderella would find the dude memorable on any level considering his blandness. Several scenes of the film solely revolve around Prince and Cinderella connecting on a romantic level (one such moment has the Prince showing Cinderella his secret garden, which has unintentionally creepy overtones) have all the excitement of watching paint dry, which, as one might imagine, makes the movies attempts at creating emotional moments involving the two characters a foolhardy exercise.
That being said, the feature does have a beautiful visual style; Kenneth Branagh directs this movie, and he brings the sort of visual splendor witnessed in his past Shakespeare efforts and even in the first Thor movie. Costumes and environments are filled with bright colors, but the actors inhabiting such aspects of the production, unfortunately, remain stilted. Chris Weitz screenplay just doesn’t have an inventive bone in it’s body as the the movie just goes through the motions of the original fairy tale without ever tossing out a sense of wonder or enchantment.
I will say that the movie easily rises above past live-action Disney remakes Alice In Wonderland and Maleficent, as the stories atmosphere lack of cynicism can be quite amiable in certain scenes, while Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine (Cinderella’s wicked step-mother) is easily the best part of the movie, lending a calm sense of power over the titular character that’s super duper effective. While I freely admit very little, if anything, in Cinderella will make you turn away in disgust, but there’s also very little, aside from Blanchett and the visuals, that will stick around in one’s mind long after the last stroke of midnight.