dir Kenneth Branagh
scr Chris Weitz
prd David Barron, Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur
with Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgard, Nonso Anozie, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon
release US 13.Mar.15, UK 27.Mar.15
15/UK Disney 1h52
Something wicked this way comes: James and Blanchett

madden bonham carter grainger

Showing with:
Frozen Fever

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Cinderella After Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, Disney takes a more old fashioned approach to the diamond in its collection, retelling the Cinderella fairy tale with artistry and emotion, and just enough snap to keep modern audiences involved. It's a swoony film with genuine waves of romance, even if a couple of quirkier details ring a bit false.

Ella (James) grew up in a rural idyll until her mother (Atwell) died and her father (Chaplin) married Lady Tremaine (Blanchett), who moves in with her vain daughters Drizella and Anastasia (McShera and Grainger). After her father dies, the ever-optimistic Ella becomes a servant simply to keep the house running. When her stepmother prevents her from attending the ball thrown by the Crown Prince (Madden), it's Ella's fairy godmother (Bonham Carter) who whips up some magic. Ella and the soulful Prince had met once before, and tonight her appearance and sudden disappearance seals the deal.

Yes, screenwriter Weitz has remained faithful to both the Charles Perrault story and the 1950 Disney classic, although he and Branagh can't resist stirring in a couple of distracting elements. First, Blanchett's stepmother launches a conspiracy with an advisor (Skarsgard) to the King (Jacobi). But the most jarring note is Bonham Carter's fairy godmother, who seems to arrive from a very different movie with her clumsy magic and ditzy giggles. Her big sequence is hilarious, offering a suddenly slapstick moment in an otherwise lush, warm film.

Both of these things are here for obvious reasons: dramatic urgency and comic relief. But they feel somewhat forced and unnecessary when the film is otherwise so sumptuously shot and designed, with spectacular Sandy Powell costumes and seamless visual effects. Apart from the fairy godmother's silliness, the script's humour is character-based and organic. And aside from the stepmother's wicked plan, the tension is honest and, frankly, enough.

Virtually every frame is staggeringly gorgeous, and Branagh cleverly catches subtle details in each scene, including thoughts and feelings, small bits of business and witty asides. Even the music is sumptuous, from Patrick Doyle's original score to two classic numbers that play over the end credits. But what makes the film work so beautifully is the romantic chemistry between James and Madden, which is both sweetly touching and darkly surging. It's impossible not to look forward to their happy-ever-after ending, and impossible not to smile when it arrives without a hint of sarcasm.

cert u themes, violence 1.Mar.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall