Live-action ‘Cinderella’ retains fairy-tale magic

By Bob Bloom
Surprisingly, Disney’s live-action adaptation of its classic animated fairy tale “Cinderella” is a well-done and handsome feature that takes a rather mature approach to its subject matter.
Oh, magic still plays a role — as does a fairy godmother, mice transforming cinderellainto horses, a pumpkin into a coach, etc. etc. — but it’s done in a manner that feels neither cartoonish nor childish.
The film, directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Chris Weitz, has an old-fashioned, traditional texture that perfectly fits the mood of the story.
The magic is still there, but in smaller doses. Instead, the movie centers on a theme of forgiveness.
Lily James as Cinderella is a plucky and luminous ingénue who is determined not to give in to despair, despite all the travails life has heaped upon her.
Those abuses are mainly the doing of her stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett, and her two stepsisters, portrayed by Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera.
And while the stepsisters are drawn as caricatures, Blanchett brings not only a gravitas, but also a hint of vulnerability to her character.
She allows us to see the desperation based on her abject fear of being destitute for her actions and treatment of Cinderella.
Richard Madden makes is a charming, stalwart and compassionate prince who is smitten by the young woman he meets while on a stag hunt in the forest.
“Cinderella” is a gorgeous production that is true to its fairy tale and animated roots, yet adds enough intrigue and situations to charm adults as well as youngsters.
Paired with “Cinderella” is a cartoon, “Frozen Fever,” that reunites the cast of the original movie. In this short, Queen Elsa is determined to throw a birthday party for her sister, Anna, but the young monarch is suffering from a cold that plays havoc with all her plans.
The short is an entertaining reminder of why “Frozen” was such a hit. The characters are unchanged, new songs brighten the story and the humor comes naturally.
Together, the short and feature are strong reminders that Disney can still perform magic when the studio decides to put its heart and soul into a project and simply not think about box office revenues.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob ( and The Film Yap ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes:
3 stars out of 4
(PG), thematic elements

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