Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Disney's Cinderella Review

On Friday, March 13th 2015, Disney released the live action version of it's all time top grossing fairytale, Cinderella. The movie stars Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, Richard Madden as Prince Charming, and Lily James as Cinderella.

Before I begin with the details of the review, let me state that this movie was not marketed for children under the age of seven. There have been scores of little girls arriving to theaters in their little Cinderella dresses. Perhaps they were lulled into believing that this film would be as engaging for small children as its predecessor Maleficent. But this film is more for those fans that fell in love with the actual story and less about the children who fell in love with the scenery.

I went into this film with full-fledged enthusiasm. Cinderella is and will always be one of my favorite fairytales of all time. After seeing Maleficent, another of my favorite fairytales, I had hoped this live action film would live up to what Angelina Jolie and Disney brought to the screen. It did not.


We all remember Disney's cartoon Cinderella. She was a natural beauty who's kind nature and beauty were so overwhelming that the wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters did all they could to rid the world of her grace. In this film however, Cinderella was completely underwhelming. I am not judging the beauty of Lily James. I'm judging the performance and the way the character was written. The cartoon Cinderella was never without a sense of self-preservation. At one point, Cinderella breaks down in tears because she just didn't have it in her to keep overlooking the ugliness around her. She attempted to stand up for herself more than once. But in the live action film, Cinderella was a complete and total push over to the point that she instantly became the most annoying character in the film. She was weak and naive rather than good-natured. She was helpless rather than seemingly hopelessly trapped in a bad situation. There was nothing to like about her or to draw me to her at all. I could not identify with her on any level. This hurts the film greatly. Cinderella left so little of an impression upon me, she could have been completely removed from the film and I wouldn't have noticed.

The Wickedness

The cartoon version did a far better job of illustrating the evil nature of the stepmother and her daughters. There were reasons to hate them all. But in this live action film, there wasn't much to hate. There wasn't an abundance of work to do. There wasn't a re-occurring theme of degradation in the interactions between Cinderella and her stepfamily. In fact, There was a very in depth storyline for the stepmother that allowed us all, much like with the movie Maleficent, to understand and therefore take pity upon Lady Tremaine. By the end of the movie, I wanted to know more about the stepmother rather than Cinderella. Perhaps Disney will do an Evil Queen live action series to follow Maleficent. If they do, remember, you read it here first.

Costume Design

This changes everything. Gone are the days of Cinderella weddings with large flowing white gowns and Victorian lines. Her beautiful blue dress was adorned at the shoulders with the birds that once flew around her in the cartoon version. But what I love most about that infamous dress was the way it reminded me of Scarlet O'Hara's red dress in Gone With The Wind. But again, Cinderella was muted in comparison to the wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine.

There was never a moment when Cate Blanchett's mere onscreen presence did not upstage the title character. It is clear how Ms Blanchett became such a decorated actress in the first place. It would seem the costume designer wanted to remind us all of that by taking extra care when it came to her costumes. Even when her character was at her ugliest, Lady Tremaine's costumes were astronomically more gorgeous than the two most important dresses in the film, both of which belonged to Cinderella.

Let us not forget the fairy godmother. She too had amazing costume design. First appearing onscreen as a haggard old woman, she still had more beautiful clothing that the title character, Cinderella. The make-up was so excellent, I did not recognize Ms. Bonham Carter at all. Once she morphed into the beautiful Fairy Godmother, my attention was once again on her and not the title character. Unfortunately, this was the running theme throughout the film. Prince Charming, the footman, the stepsisters, the other members of royalty, all other characters where far better costumed than Cinderella herself. Perhaps the only negative was Helena Bonham Carter's teeth. She seemed to have difficulty speaking with them. But I am not sure if they were part of the costume or her own teeth. I don't want to make any personal attacks so I won't say much more about her teeth just in case. I will express my disappointment at the attachment of her bottom lashes. It's as if the make-up artist spent so much time making Cate Blanchett beautiful that he or she forgot to line Helena's bottom lids to hide the weft on the false lashes.

Despite the constant overshadowing of the supporting cast's costumes, the star of the wardrobe was certainly that intricately designed glass slipper.  I've never seen a such a gorgeous shoe. Stores everywhere will no doubt stock their shelves with knockoffs. Let the shopping madness begin.

The Cast

First, a nod to the writers and the casting directors who chose to make this a multicultural film without forcing it. If this were a real story, it would be reasonable to assume that an eligible Prince Charming would be met with princesses, queens, duchesses and the sort from kingdoms all around. After all, royal weddings of that day and time were intended to join kingdoms and preserve wealth and build empires. This allowed for many different cultural faces throughout the film. It was refreshing and seamless.


You will notice that I don't have much to say about the story. This is not an oversight. There really isn't anything to be said for the story or the speed of the film. The best part of the film was the race to and from the ball. Outside of that, this movie was completely unimpressive. That being said, if you're in love with the fairytale of Cinderella, you will enjoy this film. If your child is at least old enough to enjoy the storytelling rather than waiting for something to happen, he/she will also enjoy this film. My 4 year old daughter asked to leave and watch Maleficent. My 9 year old son fully enjoyed it. "I liked that the handsome Prince was so rich and got the girl and saved her." He said. There was something about the underdog story that appealed to him. When I pointed out that this was the same mushy, girly fairytale that we watched a cartoon version of, he was shocked. The live action led him to believe it was just a regular romance movie where magical things coincidentally took place. He compared it to Maleficent, which he preferred due to the violence. However, he also said he would watch it again if his sister wanted to do so.

Cinderella and romance enthusiasts will love this movie. Everyone else, will love the costumes, diversity, and nothing more.

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