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Cinderella is a ball of a time

Ben Atwater

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The most recent trend for Walt Disney Studios has been to adapt classic fairy tales into big budget fantasies.

cinderella

Cinderella is the live action remake of Disney’s classic 1950 film Cinderella (AP photo)

 

Continuing in the trend of Alice in Wonderland, Oz: The Great and Powerful, and Maleficent, Cinderella has been given the most recent treatment of being converted to a modern Hollywood blockbuster.

The past three aforementioned films are generally considered to be visually appealing but emotionally dry and bland. Well, finally a rich mix of the two has been accomplished with Cinderella.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film stays close to the classic story of country girl Cinderella turned orphan and forced to play servant to her stepmother and stepsisters. Taking solace in her animal companions, she enchants the prince of her kingdom at a ball thanks to magical enhancements by her fairy godmother. Forced to return home to servitude, she leaves behind a glass slipper, which only fits her.

This leads to her discovery by the prince, and she escapes her enslavement to her stepmother and lives happily ever after. This is hardly a spoiler, as this timeless tale is almost as widely known as the tale of “Jonah and the Whale.”

Kenneth Branagh does an excellent job with this new adaptation, finding the perfect fit for all of the roles. Starring Lily James as Cinderella and Richard Madden as Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett stands out as Cinderella’s stepmother, playing the role with purpose, and not just fitting into the evil archetype that has been established over generations.

One understands why the stepmother abuses Cinderella, as she is driven by need and jealousy, derived from hard times she and her daughters have gone through. However, the viewer still feels for Cinderella’s plight against adversity.

Praise is also due towards Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Coming in at a time of desperation, she outfits Cinderella with a new dress, a carriage complete with horses and doormen, and a pair of glass slippers. While Carter’s role is brief, she leaves an impression as a genuine eccentric sorceress that lends to one of the most entertaining segments of the film in the creation of Cinderella’s magical enhancements.

On a technical level, the costumes and sets are beautiful. Everything from Cinderella’s country house to the royal palace vibrantly pops off the screen and create a picturesque kingdom that is the epitome of a classic fairy tale. I could easily see Cinderella being nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume next year, if not winning it. The royal ball is incredibly enchanting, with beautiful costumes and dancing. Cinderella’s animal friends are rendered in beautiful CGI, and are much more charming than the squeaking anthropomorphic mice from the 1950 film.

I feel no shame in saying that this film is better than the 1950 Disney classic. There is much more depth to the characters, the screenplay is richer, and it is just a better made film with more things going for it than its 1950 counterpart. Cinderella is another hit of Branagh’s run of good films.

While obviously not as great as Branagh’s high point, Hamlet, which is one of my favorite films, Cinderella’s charming visuals and performances will transport you back to childhood with a faithful retelling of the classic fairy tale.

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Cinderella is a ball of a time