Rags to Riches

After talking about all things Cinderella for a week straight (and filling my brain with CONSTANT Cinderella stories... most recently Maid to Order and Cinderrabit), I think all of us are happy to finally have this review up so we can move on with our lives, right?? During the Cinderella Awards, I talked about various aspects and characters that make up this film'; so you probably have some kind of an idea of what I thought of it. But before we get into that, let's discuss my expectations. Last year Disney brought audiences a live action adaptation of another one of their animated fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty. Except twist! This time it was from the perspective of their classic villain Maleficent. Only she wasn't a villain anymore in this telling, she was the new hero. Many audiences ate Maleficent up. I was not one of them. When I heard they were making a live-action Cinderella, I dreaded how awful it would be. Were we to see giant CGI talking doofus mice akin to what they did to the 3 fairies in Maleficent? I was worried. The trailer arrived and looked... well colorful, and potentially fun. But where would it fall in the recent lot of live action fairy tale adaptations? Would it be Mirror Mirror, Snow White & The Huntsman or the dreaded Maleficent? Happily I discovered it was better than all of them and one of the best live-action fairy tales in some time!

Let's break down its success, shall we? As mentioned in my previous posts, I definitely thought that they assembled a very fine cast that do justice to their respective characters. But then, I didn't really hate the cast of Maleficent either. However, unlike Maleficent which tears down an old story to try and be superior,  Cinderella shows absolute respect to the animated version of the story and pays homage in moments. Thankfully, it seems that this time a quality director was put at the helm (Kenneth Branagh), who had a respect for both the original fairy tale & the animated version. That's not to say some characters aren't expanded upon in a negative way to suit the purposes of the story, but those changes are pretty acceptable. Why? Because there were several moments that put a smile on my face with their happy nostalgia. Throughout the screening, I was exclaiming things such as "those bells look JUST like the ones in the old movie," "Aww she's singing 'Sing Sweet Nightingale,'" "Man, Lucifer is the best!" and "D'aww Gus Gus!!" Really, all the small touches were handled beautifully.

But somehow, it's not a carbon copy of the cartoon. In fact, we get to learn a lot more about Ella's childhood (her nickname gets added later) and what shaped her ideals. They give the character some really nice depth and make you understand  actions that to a modern mind might seem questionable. She has her roots in the animated character, but we can see a little more behind her motivations. However, she's not the only character to be fleshed out in this adaptation: Cate Blanchett's Lady Tremaine and Richard Madden's Prince Kit gain another dimension in the process as well. While I loved how coldly evil the animated stepmother was, instead of recreating her they give us another take entirely. Blanchett isn't trying to play the same character, she's giving us someone else; which is another reason why it works so much better than Maleficent. The villains share the same name and relationship to the heroine, but Blanchett made the character her own whereas Jolie made her character a hero. She rightfully stays a villain, she just becomes a more human one...which is exactly the right move. And the Prince? I'm happy to report he's not a prop! We see a lot of his life in the palace and what attracts him to Ella. He is one of the most likable princes I've ever seen. You definitely root for him.

As I glimpsed from the trailer, the production design for this movie is definitely something to look at! In fact, it's a stunning visual feast. The costumes are simply gorgeous and basically everything Cate Blanchett wears is a stunner. It's definitely an imaginative and magical take, but clever, too, in covering a lot of holes I always thought about when I was young (What about the pumpkin seeds? How do people not recognize her?). Some of the CGI might be hokey sometime down the line in the future, but that's honestly the only complaint I have. All in all, it's a clever and sweet telling of this well-known tale. It's even more impressive when you consider that even though it's been told a hundred times over, this version manages to make it new again. EMILY RATING: 9/10

But I will say it needed more Lucifer. A LOT more Lucifer.


Sarah said...

I'm excited to see it. It sounds great!

So, would this be your favorite version of the story? Or does the 50s animated classic hold that honor?

Emily said...

The 50's version still wins... but this would be my favorite live action telling I think!

Johanna said...

Interesting, one of the stepsisters plays a scullery maid/underling cook in Downton Abby to Ella's rich titled lass. A trend? That might play with your esteem a bit.

Looks great and seeing Cate Blanchett act the part of a coat hanger is the price of admission. That woman knows how to wear clothes! Can't wait!