How I Met Your Step­mother

SFX - - Rated / Cinema -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW!

U | 113 min­utes Direc­tor: Ken­neth Branagh Cast: Lily James, Richard Mad­den, Cate Blanchett, He­lena Bon­ham Carter, Ben Chap­lin

From Ham­let to Jack

Ryan, Ken­neth Branagh has never been afraid to re- in­ter­pret iconic char­ac­ters. He takes on an­other big­gie with this live- ac­tion ver­sion of the clas­sic fairy­tale – al­beit in a very play- it- safe fash­ion. Don’t ex­pect an­other Malef­i­cent; we’re not about to see events from the point- of- view of the wicked step­mother. This spin on the story is about as ad­ven­tur­ous as a cheese sand­wich.

Still, Branagh does take a risk in the open­ing. Once upon a time, we would’ve joined Ella ( Down­ton Abbey’s Lily James) with just her fa­ther ( Ben Chap­lin). But here, af­ter a brief in­ter­lude of hap­pi­ness when both par­ents are alive, Ella’s mother ( Hay­ley Atwell) passes away – sob! Then comes fa­ther’s new wife, Lady Tre­maine ( Cate Blanchett) and her two daugh­ters, Anas­ta­sia ( Hol­l­i­day Grainger) and Drizella ( So­phie McShera), and be­fore you know it, fa­ther’s died too. That’s a lot to take in if you’re five.

Grad­u­ally os­tracised and turned into a skivvy, Ella be­comes Cin­derella, a cruel nick­name due to her sooty ap­pear­ance, while bit­ter­ness swells in­side Lady Tre­maine – twice- wid­owed and now des­per­ate for her own daugh­ters to marry well. From hereon, you’ll know the story – the prince ( Richard Mad­den), the royal ball and so on.

Screen­writer Chris Weitz ( Amer­i­can Pie) chan­nels a warped lit­er­al­ism into events. Take the scene where He­lena Bon­ham Carter’s de­light­fully dippy fairy god­mother turns the pump­kin into a golden car­riage, lizards into foot­men and mice into horses. Later, Weitz takes the idea to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion: what would it be like to be in­side a mov­ing car­riage chang­ing back into a pump­kin? The re­sult is bril­liantly con­ceived and ex­e­cuted.

With Os­car win­ners Sandy Pow­ell and Dante Fer­retti pro­vid­ing cos­tumes and pro­duc­tion de­sign, Branagh’s vi­sion is pure luxury – as if Har­rods had swapped re­tail for film pro­duc­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, the ball­room se­quence is stag­ger­ing.

Credit must go to Lily James, who never lets the vi­su­als sink her per­for­mance. There are times, par­tic­u­larly when the bland Mad­den is on screen, that the whole­some­ness gets a bit much. But chil­dren will likely have a ball. James Mottram

Cin­derella is ac­com­pa­nied in cine­mas by Frozen short “Frozen Fever”; it sees Elsa caus­ing havoc on her sis­ter Anna’s birth­day.

It’s as if Har­rods had swapped re­tail for film pro­duc­tion

And the next flight down also took 25 min­utes.

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