Eight years after Enchanted, two years after Frozen, and just three months after Into the Woods, Disney offers up a new Cinderella that isn’t afraid of its old-fashioned legacy. The earnest new Princess film, written by Chris Weitz and directed by Kenneth Branagh, isn’t a reinvention or a re-imagining—as was Disney’s Maleficent—but a loyal live-action companion to the 1950 animated classic. There are kindly household critters, a handsome prince, a wish-fulfilling fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and, of course, a glass slipper.
Lily James (Downton Abbey) plays the poor orphan, Ella, left in the care of her cold and calculating stepmother. But, oh, what a wicked stepmother. “Cate Blanchett in a delirious swirl of candy-colored evil,” writes Chris Nashawaty, who graded the film a B. “Blanchett is nasty perfection from her blood red lips to her baroque Sandy Powell-designed gowns. She’s like a cross between Coco Chanel and Norma Desmond, and she smartly plays her harpiedom to the back row of the theater.”
Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden plays the handsome prince, who gets to be more than simply charming in this live-action adaption, and Stellan Skarsgard introduces an element of sinister Shakespearean intrigue that feels organic when crafted by a director like Branagh. All in all, this is a fairy-tale movie that isn’t ashamed of the label.
For more elaborate analysis, click below for a round-up of reviews from around the country.