Running time: 113 minutes approx
Cinderella - Lily James
Stepmother - Cate Blanchett
Prince Kit - Richard Madden
Fairy Godmother - Helena Bonham Carter
King - Derek Jacobi
Anastasia - Holliday Grainger
Drisella - Sophie McShera
Grand Duke - Stellan Skarsgard
Captain - Nonso Anozie
Peter – Evan Peters
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Chris Weitz
A young woman is orphaned into the care of her stepmother and two stepsisters, who treat her as a servant. For the sake of her dead parents' memory, she puts up with their ill-treatment, but when the Prince of the kingdom announces a ball to choose a bride, her life may yet change. A little magical help may be required along the way.
Remaking a beloved Disney animated feature may seem a foolhardy venture, but the studio has already been there with MALEFICENT. Of course, that had a strong central character in one of Disney's finest villains, but Cinderella is a slight story with an even slighter heroine. It also features a lot of people who are, well, nice. And talking mice. How could this possibly work?
The answer is, beautifully.
Screenwriter Chris Weitz and director Kenneth Branagh wisely eschew any hint of cynicism, irony or winking at the camera and tell the story absolutely straight. They also do away with the whole talking mice thing, though the CGI critters do play a sizeable role, but manage not to be cloying and, most importantly, humanised. When the farmyard creatures are turned into Cinderella's retinue, it is the previously ignored lizards who take centre stage.
Having so little plot to work with, and with everyone knowing the outcome before going in, Branagh concentrates on the incidental pleasures of telling the oft-told tale all over again. There is never a moment when the image on the screen is not sumptuously beautiful, no more so than in the incredible ball sequence that is just glorious to look at.
Scenery, though, can never replace those who inhabit it, and here Branagh has chosen very wisely. Lily James and Richard Madden may make for relatively bland central characters (a fault of the story), but those who revolve around them are suitably full of character and wit and charm. Leading the pack, of course, is Cate Blanchett as the stepmother. Not really evil, she is simply beaten down by the disappointments of her own life, lost husbands and unaccomplished children. When presented with everything that she ever wanted in the shape of Cinderella and her relationship with her father, how could she not be jealous and vengeful. It's a rounding out of the character that doesn't undermine her essential nastiness. Scene stealing the whole thing, though, is Helena Bonham Carter as the eccentric fairy godmother. Great value for the short time that she is on screen, we could have done with a whole lot more of her and the magical sequence of pumpkin coach creating is the film's comedic highlight. Derek Jacobi cameos as the King and shows everyone how it's done, making minutes of screentime enough for the audience to love him as much as his son does. Stellan Skarsgard is sutitably slimy as the scheming Grand Duke.
Perhaps some of the earlier scenes of happy family life are a little oversweet and perhaps the boys in the audience will feel a little shortchanged on anything to interest them (fly-swallowing footmen aside), but these are niggles so slight as to barely be worthy of mention./p>
Kenneth Branagh has delivered a modern fairy tale that is long on on charm, style, wit and heart and missing virtually nothing with a style and panache that pershaps nobody else could have managed so well.
And let's not forget that this comes with the added fun of FROZEN FEVER, the short based on the most popular animated film of, like, ever in which Elsa's plans to give Anna the perfect birthday are scuppered by an unusual cold. It's the reason why many of the audience were there in the first place.