Inconsistent tone, especially when shifting between earlier acts
Have hope, Cinderella is nowhere near as abysmally boring as its trailers. I’ll be honest, the sap level of the trailers were so off the charts that it was with great reluctance that I watched this movie… but good thing I did—it was actually pretty good.
Beginning with 2010’s wholly unnecessary Alice in Wonderland, and continuing with last year’s Maleficent, Cinderella is the latest in Disney’s attempt at toying with the idea of bringing animation to life alongside tackling different aspects of the stories that may not have seen much screen time originally. While it isn’t a sequel (like the former) or an alternate take (the latter), Cinderella certainly delivers on that, going so far as putting the Charm in Prince Charming.
However, the movie does suffer from a rather slow and sappy opening, that nevertheless manages to serve successfully in portraying Ella’s (as she’s first called here) relationship with her father and presents the widower as someone more than just a lonely man with bad taste in second wives. And unlike the movie on which this was based on, Cinderella here is a lot less passive and displays an actual personality making her far more endearing than her musically inclined, painted counterpart.
Not enough can be said of Lily James as a believable Cinderella who walks the fine line of demure and rebellious, innocent and quirky. Juxtaposed with Cate Blanchett channelling her inner-Meryl Streep, the pair share scenes that alone could justify watching the movie. More so than the treatment of the movie, it is Blanchett’s tortured Lady Tremaine that reminds me of Angelina Jolie’s turn at Maleficent. Had any director of lesser talent than Kenneth Branagh handled Cinderella, Blanchett would have easily overshadowed just about everybody else.
If there’s anything to be said against the movie, it would ironically be the iconic fairy godmother scene. Maintaining a well-measured tone of semi-realism till then, Cinderella’s magical transformation comes as a sudden break, forcing us to realise that this (unlike the aforementioned Maleficent) is more truly a remake than an adaptation. While an error or two in most storytelling sequences can be forgiven, and even forgotten, this one stands out due to its significance to the story. Even more disappointingly, it never seems to hit the magical zenith which Patrick Doyle’s score seems to expect.
That aside, Helena Bonham Carter’s appearance as a Burton-esque Fairy Godmother (that’s a good thing, I promise) does give the movie a much needed kick in the pace. Also, her short appearance highlights the strength of the selected cast.
Despite all of my earlier concerns, I daresay Cinderella has earned itself a place in Disney’s library, not only setting the benchmark for future adaptations of kind, but also correcting the problems faced by Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent. If nothing else, I am now far more excited for the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake (Emma Watson!)… but am still hella worried about Tim Burton’s take on Dumbo…