Disney is at it again, taking a previously existing animated movie and adapting it to the big screen. So, with their poor run in this sector of late, can this make a difference?
The short answer is “Well, not really”, but for different reasons than cited for their other adaptations. I won’t delve into the synopsis for this since hell, we all know about Cinderella. If you don’t, it might be time to go check the original out again pronto. This movie adds a few small new features in, such as more depth to the Prince, but on the whole, you are getting the same tale.
Now, instead of the previous examples where the focus has been either on being a prequel, or on expanding a story, this keeps pretty close to the animated feature. Cinderella is still held by her wicked step-mother and step-sisters, the fairy god-mother still uses magic to help her get to the Ball, and the Prince still falls for her despite she not being of royalty. So if you are expecting much in the way of new content or a fresh perspective… you’d better look elsewhere.
But, let’s start with some plus points. The costume design in the film is really, really well done and does goes towards capturing a little of the magic you expect. Cinderella’s dress for the Ball is a show-stopper and makes the rest of the fashion on display look frayed and dull. Fans of Cinderella will be looking forward to this moment in particular, so I will give Disney praise for nailing it. Therest of the design has a very Edwardian style going on that means there’s plenty of colour and formal attire on display. If you enjoy films with the likes of this, you’ll enjoy this from a visual point of view for sure.
I did enjoy the performance by Helena Bohan Carter as the fairy god-mother too. It is the only real moment in the running time to speak of that is fun and creative, as she creates the carriage and all the extras needed for it. Even though she’s know for mostly picking the crazy roles, she pulls it off again here to an enjoyable result. She’s charismatic, and is having fun with the performance. Lily James as Cinderella captures the part relatively well too, especially at the main event of the Ball.
And as a last positive remark, although this isn’t as praising, there isn’t exactly anything “bad” to speak of in the film. It doesn’t hit any moments of bad choices since the original material is being followed, the Prince (Richard Madden) is given a bit more story to run with, the sets look great, the CG transformation of the carriage looks good, and the core audience that it is aimed at will find no real problems at all. It is made more to be admired on an aesthetic level than from any story level, and that is what Disney provided.
But, for those of us who wanted this to swing past the fences and use the opportunity to be a bit more bold, we will find this oh-so very bland and average. The script offers almost nothing for the acting performers to work from, and contains next to nothing in the comedic department. There’s two half-arsed attempts at getting a laugh for the audience, but it is clear they were only inserted just to be part of the trailers. The writing makes the prince look like he is made of oak, and Cinderella is given no opportunity at all to make a break to get away from her horrid step-family. I mean, why wouldn’t she, why would she just soak it all up? Did she even inherit the home from her father or did her step-mother take it? This is the kind of stuff that could have been added in, but was scrapped to keep the runtime as flat and smooth and predictable as possible.
This makes for a viewing experience that is devoid of surprise, intrigue, or connection to the characters. The movie just moves very safely from one set piece to the next, ensuring to hit the main notes it has to, before carrying on again. And like most Disney live action adaptations, we get a set of annoyingly “cute” characters in the mice, who get more screen time in the first act than almost anyone else for some reason. I don’t want to linger on this one problem, but really, without the creativity or new material for the script, you have very little to focus on except the odd pretty dress.
To sum up, this is a whiskey tumbler with plain water in it. The glass looks really pretty, but there is no taste or complexity to the drink whatsoever. “Cinderella” in this form of adaptation is made with the one purpose of looking new and interesting for the target audience to enjoy, but scratch beneath the surface and you will find extremely little on show. For something that cost nearly $100 million, you’d expect more meat or complexity. But alas, even the single dimensions of Prince Charming wouldn’t be impressed by this.
Thanks for reading!