Overview: The story of Cinderella can be traced back to early Egypt, China, France, Germany and many other countries from around the world. The most well-known versions were written by Charles Perrault, Cendrillon, and by the Brothers Grimm, Aschenputtel. There have been countless film, television and stage adaptations of the iconic story, but the most well-known adaptation is Walt Disney's 1950 animated film.
I first fell in love with Walt Disney's animated film when I was just three-years-old. It was actually the first Disney film that I ever saw as a child. I can still remember being captivated by the story and singing along with the songs. It was as though a spell had been cast upon me, but the magic never wore off at midnight. There were no words to describe the level of excitement I had when I first found out that Disney was developing a live-action film of the timeless story.
Review: Tonight, I had the opportunity to attend an advance screening of the live-action version of Walt Disney's most beloved animated film, Cinderella. What I enjoyed most about the latest "animation to live-action" treatment, is that it's a relatively straightforward telling of the classic story. While Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent were unnecessary dark and edgy re- imaginings of their animated predecessors, Cinderella is retold respectfully and refreshingly for the new generation. And yes... IT'S NOT A MUSICAL!
The Cast: Lily James (Cinderella) and Richard Madden (Prince Charming) were rightfully chosen for their iconic roles. Lily truly captured the true essence of Cinderella's innocence, charm and beauty. Richard... those eyes... ahem... was truly charming in every sense of the word. I loved the chemistry between the Prince and Cinderella -- I don't think I've seen such chemistry between two characters in a Disney film for a very long time. It's very refreshing to see a fairy tale romance blossom!
Cate Blanchett (Lady Tremaine) and Helena Bonham-Carter (Fairy Godmother) were perfectly cast for their respective roles. Cate not only brought a lot of depth to her character, but you could tell she was enjoying the role as the malicious stepmother. Helena not only brought a bit of comic relief to the film, but she was definitely fun to watch -- although you can't help but wonder if Mrs. Weasley actually zapped Bellatrix Lestrange into a parallel universe. Hmm?
Director and Writer: I personally believe that Disney made the right decision to hire Kenneth Branagh to direct the film and Chris Weitz to write the screenplay. As I was watching the film on the big screen tonight, I could tell that they both approached the story with deep understanding and, most importantly, respect. I was genuinely relieved that it wasn't ruined by some unnecessary "dark" and "edgy" plot twist. Phew!
Score and Costumes: I absolutely loved Patrick Doyle's score for the film and found it to be quite fitting with the story. It was perfectly timed and it drew you into the fairy tale world. I'm definitely happy that I bought the soundtrack. Sandy Powell's costumes, though silly at times, were excellent. I don't think I've seen such beautiful designs and vibrant colours in one film since the Golden Age of Hollywood. I genuinely hope Sandy will be nominated for an Oscar next year for those stunning costumes. Bravo!
Sets and Special Effects: The film itself is a visual marvel -- especially for the fairy tale genre. I was truly swept away by the lavish sets that were designed by Dante Ferretti. I don't think I've seen such a breathtaking production since the late 1930's when Hollywood used to put a lot of effort into their sets. The special effects were equally breathtaking, with the dress transformation and the carriage-to-pumpkin scenes being two of my favourite visual highlights. Very impressive!
Running Time: My only disappointment was the running time of the theatrical cut. I personally believe that it should have been 10 minutes or 15 minutes longer to flesh out the story more. The film flowed smoothly and didn't feel rushed, but there were a number of scenes and dialogue that were, unfortunately, left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully Disney will release an extended cut, or include those deleted scenes on the home media release. You hear me, Disney?!
Verdict: Despite my issue with the running time, I genuinely believe that Disney did something right with their latest live-action film. While most people were probably expecting a sword-wielding action hero, I'm happy that Disney treated their most beloved character with the uttermost care and respect. While the previous live-action films were all about style, they lacked substance and, unfortunately, heart. Cinderella, however, has style, substance and, most importantly, heart. I'm genuinely happy that Disney kept the magic alive in this film. If Walt Disney himself were alive today, I'm sure he would be proud to see his most treasured little saviour be retold to the new generation in a beautiful and charming way. Bravo!
Note: Make sure to stay during the whole end credits as it's accompanied by Lily James singing a beautiful rendition of "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and Helena Bonham Carter singing a much humorous version of "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo". A wonderful nostalgic tribute to the animated film!