For romantics and 8-year-olds
Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Richard Madden.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Written by Chris Weitz, Aline Brosh McKenna
Family fantasy romance. 1hr 45min. G rating.
Showing at Reading and Event Cinemas
Loathe though I am to admit it, I might be a little too hard- hearted to really enjoy this new version of Cinderella.
Fair enough too, since director Kenneth Branagh’s target audience is at least half ( OK, an eighth) of my age, which is how young you have to be these days to believe, as Cinderella asks you to, in the power of kindness to make dreams come true.
Still, if ever a film was going to put the rose-coloured glasses back on my haggard old boot of a face, it’d be one as sweet natured and enchanting as Disney’s live action version of the 1950 animated classic.
This glossy new version sticks pretty closely to the original, retelling the tale of the mystery girl who evades her wicked stepmother’s machinations to capture the heart of Prince Charming.
Branagh’s Cinderella ( Lily James) doesn’t get a modern makeover so much as a live-action spruce-up, pouring on the glitter and adorable woodland creatures in good measure.
What’s new are the peripheral characters who have motivations and stories of their own.
The relationship between Prince Kit (Richard Madden) and his dear old dad (Derek Jacobi), for example, is genuinely touch- ing, while the manipulative wicked stepmother is given more depth and motivation in Cate Blanchett’s capable hands.
Indeed, Blanchett takes what could have been a hammy pantomime sort of role and gives it so much life I couldn’t help wishing there was more of her in fabulous frocks, twisting men around her dexterous fingers.
Cinderella isn’t about that kind of thing, however. It’s about young love, and that really does shine.
Madden and James are so perfectly matched in charm and attractiveness it’s almost impossible to deny them – however mired in reality you might be.
Madden is as dashing as any Prince Charming should be. One does rather miss his Game of Thrones whiskers (he was Robb Stark on that show), but again, this is not a film for the likes of me.
James is as sweet as a summer peach and 10 times as pretty, without being too simpering or coquettish.
Ultimately, the magic is in Cinderella’s details, the individual characters of Cinders’ animal friends, the cosy clutter of her country home, the ostentation of the palaces – not to mention Cate Blanchett’s wardrobe – and in the budding young love between Cinders and her Kit.
In the spirit of the film’s heroine, I choose not to be unkind, even in the face of unapologetic and unevolved schmaltz.
Besides, sneering at Cinders and Kit’s doe-eyed love is like kicking a puppy in front of a 5-year-old, and I’m not quite that twisted yet.
Cinderella delivers, as promised, tender romance for true believers, true romantics and wanton escapists, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
After all, if the shoe fits . . .
Storied love: Lily James as Ella and Richard Madden as Prince Kit in Disney’s Cinderella make a perfect pair.