Director Kenneth Branagh plays one of Disney’s most-iconic animated fairy tales remarkably straight – but the lack of surprises actually makes it endearingly watchable.
There’s not a lot of twist and turns as The House of Mouse continues its golden box-office run of turning its famous animations into fully-fledged movies – just like with Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent – and this is arguably the best of the bunch yet.
It may lack the ‘risks’ taken with the previous two aforementioned efforts, but British ‘thesp’ Kenneth Branagh – who cut his blockbuster directorial teeth with Thor – keeps it close to the source material with a likeable cast and a faithful old-fashioned charm.
Lily James – best known for her role as Lady Rose MacClare in Downton Abbey – puts in a quietly competent and understated performance as the title character, and is superbly supported by Richard Madden’s (Game of Thrones) amiable Prince, and a devilishly horrid turn from two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s cruel stepmother.
When a sad turn of events leaves ‘Ella orphaned after illness takes her mother (Captain America’s Hayley Atwell), and later her father (The Truth About Cats & Dog’s Ben Chaplin), she is turned into a house slave by the wicked Lady Tremaine – aided by her ignorant daughters (Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera) – who had moved into the family home after striking a companionship with her Dad before his death.
But fortunately the kind-hearted Ella has some luck in store via Helena Bonham Carter’s fairy Godmother, and gets the chance to win the heart of Madden’s prince by out-dazzling Tremaine’s daughters and the rest of the female population at the ball.
You know the story: and that’s exactly the strengths the film plays to – one of the few special effects sections sets the exciting scene as the pumpkin inevitably turns into a carriage – and it never diversifies away from the obvious.
It won’t win any awards for ingenuity as the clock strikes midnight – but does what it does in a refreshingly back-to-basics and traditionally romantic way that you can’t help but enjoy.
And seeing Cinderella in that jaw-dropping dress can’t help but put a smile on your face – as Disney does it again.
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CAST: LILY JAMES, RICHARD MADDEN, CATE BLANCHETT, HOLLIDAY GRANGER, STELLAN SKARSGARD, DEREK JACOBI, NONSO ANOZIE, SOPHIE McSHERA, HAYLEY ATWELL, BEN CHAPLIN & ROB BRYDON
RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 55 MINS
DIRECTOR: KENNETH BRANAGH