A Lovely “Cinderella” Spectacle from Kenneth Branagh
By Skip Sheffield
Kenneth Branagh has tackled the Cinderella story with all the seriousness of a Shakespearean drama.
Branagh is after all one of the finest Shakespearean actors and directors on the planet, and working with a Walt Disney budget he has produced a stunningly visual “Cinderella.”
Lilly James of “Downton Abbey” won the plum role of Ella, the orphaned girl who becomes Cinderella. The story sticks pretty much with the 1950 animated version, though amped up with gorgeous settings, lavish costumes and nifty special effects. All it is missing is the wonderful music.
The experience is enhanced with a “Frozen” themed animated short before we meet Ella, who has lost her mother but has a most loving father (Ben Chaplin). Unfortunately for Ella, dad marries a woman who will morph into the stepmother from Hell after he dies.
That would be Lady Tremaine, and she is played with great relish and sly wit by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett clearly loves being as selfish and wicked as possible, and in doing so she steals the movie from the title character.
Ella is good, pure, selfless and kind, but that is nowhere near as much fun as Blanchett’s calculating villain.
Ella’s stepsisters are not as butt-ugly as the animated characters, but they are a comic sight in their ridiculous outfits.
Like Ella, her Prince Charming, called Kit here, is as wholesome and exciting as sliced Wonder Bread. At least Richard Madden is quite handsome and dashing.
The all-important Fairy Godmother is played by Helena Bonham Carter with great comic flair.
Mark my words, “Cinderella’s” costumes will be remembered at next year’s Oscars. I may be a fashion-impaired guy, but I was quite dazzled by the frocks.
I am not the target of “Cinderella,” but I found it enjoyable and entertaining just the same. I think you will too, regardless of your sex or age.