CinderellaThese days retellings of classic fairy tales (yes, mostly Disney oriented) have been about the back-stories of other characters (Maleficent) or reimagining’s (Peter Pan being the most prevalent, though not always Disney).  Cinderella is no different, though it does have some shining moments beyond those of just the glass slipper.

The film Cinderella follows the story of a young “Ella” (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother due to some strange illness. Dedicated to her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia and Drizella into the family household. But when Ella’s father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of her jealous and very cruel new family. They force her into the role of nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and nastily renamed “Cinderella” because of the fact that she used to work in the cinders. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who abuse her. It is then that she meets a dashing stranger in the woods  (Richard Madden). Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. But it will take a little bit of magic to get the two together and end happily ever after.

This movie is fun. There are no spoilers here (if you are unaware of how it ends, congratulations for finally deciding to live outside of a cave). The performances are energetic and playful. It is nice to see Richard Madden in a bright role outside of his moody Game of Thrones character John Snow. The writing is delightful and witty, which came as an unexpected bonus. Cate Blanchett is sublimely evil, to where as some Disney villainesses have gone way over the top, such as Meryl Streep in 101 Dalmatians; she has a subdued menace to her.

There is a very Shakespearean tone to the picture, which comes as no surprise seeing as how it wad directed by Kenneth Branagh, but this only adds to increase the complexity of what was otherwise a standard rags to riches story that comprised the majority of the original.

It is also worthy to note that the iconic mice that are Cinderella’s friends do not speak in this one, though she can understand their squeaks and chatter. This was a nice touch that felt more honest than the singing and dancing ones (in clothes mind you) from the original animated feature. It made the picture more grounded and allows the audience to focus on Cinderella’s struggles as opposed to bunch of silly songs.

If there is a drawback to the film it would only be the overwhelming use of big, orchestral music in many of the dramatic scenes. While it was meant to increase emotions, it only took away from them. It is not to say the score was bad, merely that is consumed more than it enhanced. All that aside, this a film to take the family too, and one that they will all enjoy.