Magazine article Variety

Cinderella

Magazine article Variety

Cinderella

Article excerpt

Cinderella

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

STARRING: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden

In Disney's new live-action "Cinderella," four mice are ballooned into elegant white horses, two lizards are forced to serve as makeshift footmen, and an oblivious old goose gets zapped into driving a pumpkin carriage. But as the American Humane Assn, can attest, no animals were harmed in the making of this delightful if overly safe update of the gold-standard toon classic. More importantly, the underlying property emerges untarnished, as director Kenneth Branagh reverently reimagines Charles Perrault's fairy tale for a new generation the world over, spelling countless opportunities to exploit fresh interest in the story throughout the Disney universe.

The latest in a trend to rework the most precious treasures in the Mouse House vault, "Cinderella" is the studio's most calculated retelling yet, to the extent that those who know the toon by heart may find Chris Weitz's serviceable script a wee bit dull. The goal, of course, is to give fans and future adherents a chance to delve deeper into the world suggested by uncle Walt's "original," for which no less a pair than costume queen Sandy Powell and production-design maestro Dante Ferretti have been enlisted. It's the dazzling texture those two bring to the production that makes "Cinderella" such an exquisite visual experience.

Such a lavish approach is not without its drawbacks, as it can inadvertently serve to make the human cast feel almost plain by contrast. Only Cate Blanchett, who plays the imperious Lady lYemaine, fashion-plate stepmother to ash-covered orphan Cinderella ("Downton Abbey's" Lily James), seems fit to hold her own against such extravagant costumes and sets. With eyes wide, brows arched and her mouth in a permanent scowl, Blanchett makes an epic villainess so deliciously unpleasant, one almost wishes the film were focused more on her.

Little has changed in the plot itself, apart from a scene in which Cinderella meets Kit (Richard Madden) before the story's famous ball, motivating the charming prince to expand the roster of invited guests beyond mere royalty to include all the young ladies of the land. He, too, is soon to be orphaned, and his ailing father (Derek Jacobi) wants nothing more than to see his son married before he dies. …

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