Basically a live action non-musical remake of the 1950 Cinderella animation with typical Disney idealisation and wrong messages
(WARNING: This review contains major spoilers)
If you somehow don't already know the classic fairy tale, it's basically about the titular character who, after the sudden death of her father, is left in the care of her mean stepmother Lady Tremaine who cruelly mistreats and abuses her like a servant along with her two dumb spoiled daughters Anastasia and Drizella. Thanks to her Fairy Godmother's magic, she's able to attend a royal ball, meets Prince Charming and falls in love with him but she has to leave in a rush as the Fairy Godmother's spell doesn't late past midnight. She accidentally left one of her glass slippers (or some calls them shoes) which the Prince Charming uses to find her down and marry her.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan: The Shadow Recruit, Thor) and screenplay written by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, Antz), this film is actually quite a straight forward live action remake of Disney's own 1950 animated adaptation with some reimagining to the story but the musical aspect is completely removed. Some of the changes to the origins are commendable, while mostly are not. The only really improvement to story is that the romance between Cinderella and Prince Charming is more justified. There's more reason to why the two fall in love with each other rather than just love at first sight after meeting just once seemingly because of just looks and status.
This version of Cinderella here, played by Lily James (Fast Girls, Downton Abbey TV series), is written and portrayed as a weak female character with a gorgeous face, fair skin, shiny blonde hair, a tiny waist that's more unrealistic than in the animation and a sexy cleavage, who needs miracle to help her get what she wants, and without the persistence of an obsessed prince and the bit of luck at the end, she would've just been her cruel stepmother's slave prisoner for the rest of her life. Her late mother's advice to be "brave and kind" also fails as an excuse for her inability to save herself because she simply allows her stepmother and sisters step all over her at her own home, and never puts up any real fight at all. That's not kindness, it's unrelatable stupidity. James is beautiful and gave a decent performance but come on, where's the women power? I find it very hard to the character and it just feels there is no right message or influence for kids.
Richard Madden (The Game of Thrones TV series) is very charming indeed as the prince known as "Kit" in this adaptation. Although he's the only guy Cinderella has ever spoken to, at least it's indicated that Cinderella likes him because he's a gentleman and there's a strong chemistry between them, instead of just because he's a prince, he's handsome and she needs to be saved, while Kit is obsessed with her because she's kindhearted and talks a lot of sense. And therefore, as I mentioned, the romance is more justified than the source material(s).
There was no way that two-time Oscar winning actress Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Aviator) was going to fail as the antagonist Lady Tremaine. She's very convincingly evil and gave a bit of depth to the villain but sadly despite the longer running time of this adaptation, the character's fully explored. I still don't know why she is the way she is, why she allows her daughters to become so screwed up as well, and why Cinderella's father (Ben Chaplin) decides to choose remarry with her despite knowing that they "can be trying at times". There's also vague to no explanation on the existence of the Fairy Godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club, almost all Tim Burton films) in actress' usual wackiness. She just appears as expected and does what she does like in the original.
Although the overall production value is high, the CGI for the rats, duck and lizards feels quite out of place. The editing at the beginning is be choppy as well, frequent switches between the closeup shots of the characters' facial expression can be very annoying more than emotionally engaging. There are also some really dumb flaws in the story, like the magically created glass slippers that doesn't disappear after midnight and that the prince actually still uses the slipper to find Cinderella despite already knowing how she looks like. Although these plot holes are from the source material, why weren't these problems fixed but the romance part is? The humour's overly slapstick and kiddish as well, none of which I find funny at all.
What I would've named the film: "The Sexy Innocent Girl That's Waiting To Be Saved (if you know what I mean)"
Frozen Fever short film... shown before the start of the film made me wonder, is Disney trying to remind us that they made Frozen (an animation that conveys more respectable messages) so that the contradiction in this Cinderella story would be more forgivable? Anyway, it's a good short to display the strong sister relationship between Anna and Elsa, and also probably to sell new merchandises with the introduction of little snowmen that are shaped like erected penises with balls as legs.
Malaysia Censorship: Cinderella's nice cleavages aren't pixelised so no worries. Your little daughters would get all the influence they need to be beautiful.
Second opinion: My girlfriend felt that this Cinderella is a bit stupid as well and that the film is "not magical" at all.
Verdict: This latest Disney version of the fairy tale sort of justifies the instant romance but everything else seems more wrong than before.
Rating: 2 / 5
Based on: Disney's 1950 "Cinderella" animation that's based on Charles Perrault's Cendrillon story
Genre: Romance fantasy
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenwriter: Chris Weitz
Cast: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Helena Bonham Carter
Malaysia Release Date: 12 March 2015
Local Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Malaysia
Production: Walt Disney Pictures
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