Cinderella Movie Review
Finally, a live-action Disney fairytale that doesn't make you want to be on the receiving end of Mr. Grey's delusional fantasies. Cinderella is one big safe word, opting to do exactly what you expect at every turn, but it's a refreshing change of pace after having had to suffer through the likes of Maleficient and Alice in Wonderland in recent years.
Cinderella stars Lily James as the ever-so-cheerful Ella, who wears a smile even as she is slowly forced into servitude by her ugly stepsisters and awful stepmother, played by Cate Blanchet. Ella is one of those people you want to strangle for being so nice and so indifferent toward her own gratification, except for the fact she's a hot blonde that even Robb Stark... er, Prince Charming... can't resist.
James does well enough in the role, embodying the Disney princess version as you'd expect and never asked to dig any deeper into the character than the cartoon ever did. There's no tedious back story or altering of the well-known version--nothing like the tediously boring and awful Maleficient--nor does the movie attempt to be zany for the sake of being zany, a la Alice in Wonderland. It's straightforward, it's simple.
And it's good.
Cinderella is safe enough for the little kids and most importantly for little girls who dream of being a princess, as long as you don't mind your girls being taught that happiness comes solely with male companionship. It may not have the S&M, but at least it holds true to the underlying virtues of Fifty Shades.
Blanchet is cold enough as the evil stepmom to be satisfying, and her idiot daughters are shrill and obnoxious enough to be what they are, though the film's one critical weakness is that it holds back just a little bit when it comes to casting the trio as truly awful creatures. Nuance is fine, but it would have been more fun to see Blanchet really let loose--and to see her pay the price at the end (the punishment she faces is far from gratifying).
The movie also misfires with its handling of the fairy godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter; she pops up midway through the movie when the story calls for her, and then never reappears again. While essential to the story, it feels as though some scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
Cinderella never even tries to push the limits of its Disney-fied story--there is no slicing of the heels as you saw in last year's Into the Woods, for example--but the movie accomplishes what it intended to do: be fun, cute, romantic and, most importantly, family-friendly. Prince Charming will see you now.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.