Review by Nathan Miller
Cinderella is fairy tale that continues to remain cherished by many even in our ever changing society. Disney has turned their classic animated film into a live-action emotional joy-ride that will please mostly everyone. It is not a film without flaws, and it is a film that is catered to a certain demographic. It is, however, true to its nature and recognizes the importance of tradition. The film was constructed with much enthusiasm and love that it oozes out an essence of magic that only a tale such as this can project. While there are scenes that are unique to this film, there are a few that are frame by frame the same as the animated film. Did Disney perhaps play it too safe? Or was it important to not ruin an already loved and established story? In some cases, it can be both.
Although I would imagine most reading this know the story of Cinderella, I will quickly explain it to those who may not know. Ella is a daughter of a travelling merchant and an outward thinking mother who lived a very wonderful life up until her mother passing away. As the years go by, Ella's father yearns for a second chance at happiness and remarries (with Ella's approval) to a very bitter woman. Ella's new stepmother brings along two selfish brats who only wish to be spoiled, and their constant crude remarks towards Ella make her father's trips as a merchant tough. On one fateful day, a message is delivered that Ella's father has died during his travels. She falls into despair but tries to keep her family's beliefs alive. Unfortunately her stepmother and step-sisters treat her terribly, she is forced to eat scraps from meals she cooks for them and do endless amounts of chores. Ella could not handle the abuse one day and rode out into the forest to escape it all, as luck may have it, she comes face to face with the Prince during one of his hunts. They become infatuated with one another but neither disclose who they really are as they go their separate ways.
The Prince is being pressured into wedding a Princess from another kingdom, but he cannot rinse his mind of the girl he met in the forest. In order to lore her out, he throws a giant ball hoping that she would attend. The stepmother sees an opportunity for her own children as she prepares them for the ball. She forbids Ella from attending the ball as she rips up her dress and teases her for being a nobody. As Ella breaks down into tears outside, a mysterious woman begs for something to eat or drink. True to her nature, Ella obliges. It was a test from a magical being who then makes it her goal for Ella to attend the Prince's ball.
Emotionally, this film can be draining. It may have its quirky and lighthearted moments, but Cinderella hits hard with a few tear jerking scenarios that were not in the animated film. It took me for surprise, because I thought the film would have a corny aroma to it. The beating of a dead horse (Ella's emotional fortitude) almost made me want to scream. The characters were genuine and fit their roles perfectly. Although I knew the story behind the film, it felt fresh with the inclusion of a few new scenes. The scene where Ella and the Prince meet before the ball is unique to this film, and it makes his falling for her less far-fetched. Cate Blanchett, who played the stepmother, was as cold as ice. She could get your blood boiling with the simplest of lines. I enjoyed all the little details splattered throughout the film. If you are paying close attention, there are little moments between the animals or smaller cast members happening that adds to the overall vibe of the film. Also, the costumes and sets were spectacular and made scenes more magical (in a good way) than they should have been.
The realism introduced in this film and the lack of sugar coating important character building moments is what helps this film prevail. They did not shy away from the death of loved ones, they did not make the relentlessness of the stepmother stop, and they pushed the importance of the kingdom over the prince's love of a commoner. It is worth nothing that the added realism did not take away from the fairy tale essence that you would expect from this film. For example: the animals do not talk like they did in the animated film, but they do have unique personalities and interactions with one another. These subtle changes take the fantasy down a notch, but I would argue that they took to the level needed for this film. Lastly, the captain and friend of the prince will be your favorite character in the film. He was great.
This is a film most men cannot watch by themselves in a movie theater. It is not that they would not enjoy the film, but you will be surrounded by a bunch of five year old girls and couples which will make that solo moviegoer look very creepy. I did not like that the fairy godmother was less present in this tale of Cinderella. She came out of left field which made her first interaction with Ella very strange. The shame is that Helena Bonham Carter did a terrific job as the fairy godmother, but she did not get enough screentime in my opinion. Also, I did not like seeing the same exact scenes from the animated film in this version of Cinderella. If you are trying to sell yourself as not a remake, you need interpret or change scenes that will make them unique to the film. There were a few awkward pauses in the movie that made me break from the movie. For example: the sigh/chuckle prince Kit does three times when Ella is leaving during the forest scene was weird.
Cinderella is a classic tale remastered for a modern age that did not sway too much from the source material. The original animated film is well-regarded and beloved by many, so I can understand why changing something that is not bad was not in their interest. Although I would have enjoyed for the filmmakers to take a few more liberties with the script, there is nothing wrong with this interpretation of this fairy tale. It is a fantastic representation of a love story that will never die. Everything was meticulously worked on to ensure this film fit in the world it was trying to preserve. Courage and kindness were words you hear quite a bit in the film, and it was also the message it was trying to bestow on those watching it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film.
Final Pew Rating: 4 out of 5 Pews.
All Images Courtesy of http://movies.disney.com/cinderella