I haven't been in much of a filmgoing mood this last month. I suppose that's a sign of the season more so than anything else. Films in February and particularly March are usually the final backwash of the previous year... the stuff the studios felt didn't have a shot in hell at winning awards or making much money. However, Disney did find it worth their while to put out a live action adaptation of one of their most respected classics...
Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella is a surprisingly accurate adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story... well, minus the blood and the birds pecking peoples eyes out and all that. It doesn't suffer from the ridiculously painful flaws that sent Maleficent astray. The fact that Cinderella sticks so closely to the original story works highly to its advantage. For instance, the aesthetic is so vibrant and joyful... and the viewer can actually focus on this element as the classic story sort of lazes down the river. Harris Zambarloukos' pallet is so significant in its leveling of sheer beauty that the eyes are struck with a mad sort of giddiness.
Yet I would be remiss if I did not comment on the film's surprising weakness. It comes in the form of action, and it is the only real action in the whole flick. The carriage scene at the end... after the stroke of midnight... feels rushed, awkward, and unnecessarily stuffed into a film without need of such a moment. So I am left wondering who thought this scene needed to exist in said format. The old Disney animated movie felt no requirement to include a potential drop off a cliff or anything along those lines. So why try to falsely pull a sense of dread out of an audience that's guaranteed to know what's going to happen regardless?
Lily James is an excellent casting choice. Her smile makes me happy and she proves that she's got some acting chops as well. You'd better have a few tricks up your sleeve if the majority of your scenes are set against Cate Blanchett... who by the way (I know you're SO surprised) is wonderful in this film. Richard Madden is also pretty good, though he doesn't have a lot to do here. My greatest note about him in this film comes more as a commentary on Lucy Bevan's decision to cast him in the first place... You're casting Robb Stark in a film where his character makes the same decision that ultimately gets him killed in rather disturbing fashion in that other very well known fantasy series. It just feels like an odd but laugh-worthy choice.
Cinderella is a good enough film to stretch your legs in during the slow season. It's just enjoyable enough and all of the moving parts tend to work more often than not. If you've got any love for classic Disney and you want that magic feeling, you'll probably find it here for a brief time.