Cinderella (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, PG)

cinderella_75Thankfully, once you cut past the distractions, the new version of Cinderella isn’t as bad as its prerelease strategy would lead you to believe.


You get two impressions going into watching the Disney release of the new live-action version of Cinderella: One, they’re pushing the short that precedes it, “Frozen Fever,” more than they are the feature itself—isn’t Cinderella enough of a draw on its own? And two, doesn’t this look a little too much like Tim Burton’s live-action Alice in Wonderland from a few years ago, which was admittedly a cash cow, but also one of the most despicably awful movies of recent memory?

Thankfully, once you cut past the distractions, the new version of Cinderella isn’t as bad as its prerelease strategy would lead you to believe. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is everyone’s favorite Shakespeare connoisseur (Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing) turned tent-pole director (Thor), and made from a script by Chris Weitz (director of New Moon), Cinderella retells the story we’re all so familiar with, but this time reframed in Frozen’s color palette and featuring some poorly-integrated CGI. Cinderella herself wears low neckline dresses and likes to bend down a lot, the male characters all appear to be wearing yoga pants and may want to have a bulge contest with David Bowie in Labyrinth, and each non-Cinderella female character has the exaggerated femininity of a drag queen.

But amongst those secondary female characters is none other than Cate Blanchett, vamping it up as the wicked stepmother, and you should damned well know by now that Blanchett all but has to be the best actress of her generation. Sure, Cinderella doesn’t feature anything near what she’s capable of in terms of acting, but she’s always fun to watch, and this is no exception.

Beyond that, not much is brought to the table here. It’s to the film’s benefit that they don’t mess with the plot much or follow the trend of needlessly releasing it in 3-D. But then, aren’t we all under a bit of Cinderella fatigue, especially with this coming so soon on the heels of Into the Woods, where Anna Kendrick played Cinderella? Cinderella’s Cinderella, Lily James (Downton Abbey), looks more like the animated Disney princess than Kendrick did and is perfectly capable in the role, but I’m not sure it’s so easy to justify the need for yet another film adaptation of this story just because you got a closer visual match to the lead in the animated version.

Which leaves us with “Frozen Fever,” a short that starts off like a cash grab but winds up being pretty funny. Either way, it doesn’t justify the ticket price of Cinderella, nor does Cinderella itself, but if your standards are low enough you won’t regret the endeavor of going too much. | Pete Timmermann

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