We go to the movies to laugh, cry, connect and be swept away. Cinderella almost made me feel like a little girl again, falling in love with film for the first time.
It’s sprinkled with Disney fairy dust, but underpinned by a thoroughly British sensibility courtesy of director Kenneth Branagh and the largely British cast. So there are huge helpings of twee, and large doses of dry humour, as well as enough broad comedy to tickle the youngest audience members.
The ugly stepsisters are actually not that hard on the eye, revealing how true ugliness lies inside — and yet in this Cinderella it’s not that cut and dried. As hideous as their personalities are, they’re also quite entertaining (the actresses are having a blast) and we don’t wind up despising them. Even the wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett), who really is very very bad to poor old Cinders, is played with enough shades of grey that you can almost feel empathy for her at the end.
The story of orphaned Ella (nicknamed Cinder’ella by her stepsisters for her ‘ashy housemaid’ look) is ages old and I love the Disney animation. The live action version is so colourful, so enchanting, you want to jump through the screen and join Cinderella at the ball.
The ravishing costumes and set design are already crying out for Oscars: even the crazy outfits worn by the stepsisters have their own degree of mismatch-fab going on. As fairy godmother, Helena Bonham Carter pulls off her usual eccentric shtick with aplomb and the woman at the heart of the movie, Ella (played by Lily James from Downton Abbey) manages to convey both innocence and inner strength.
The wonderful message of this film is that true magic lies in having courage and being kind, a sentiment repeated like a mantra and echoed in the bond that draws Cinderella and her Prince to each other.
The Prince (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones) is almost cartoon Disney with his square jaw, dark hair and glittering eyes. But Madden brings a touching vulnerability to the role and the Prince’s scenes with Ella are electric.
My two rugged boys weren’t exactly falling over themselves to go and watch a princess movie, but both of them were caught up in the storyline, the drama, the funny bits and the adventurous pace. The chase scene when Cinderella, pumpkin and coachmen race against the clock, is so brilliantly orchestrated that audience members burst into spontaneous applause.
You’ll enjoy Rob Brydon adding a bit of Gavin and Stacey humour to his turn as a royal portrait artist. And I was happy to see some diversity in the mix, including my fellow Brit Nigerian Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones) as a prince’s guard. More please, Disney!
Funny, poignant and at times breathtakingly beautiful, Cinderella doesn’t attempt to score many points for feminism, or realism for that matter. But actually Ella’s no passive heroine — she rescues her Prince from a life he never wanted, just as much as he rescues her. And who can argue that kindness and courage really are magic or that true love does conquer all?
Cinderella is out in UK cinemas from Fri Mar 27 (TODAY)