Slavishly adapted from Disney’s classic 1950 animated musical, Kenneth Branagh’s live action version of the fairy-tale romance doesn’t skimp on the period detail.
Sandy Powell’s luxurious costumes, Dante Ferretti’s opulent set designs and Patrick Doyle’s sweeping orchestral score conjure a magical world of unerring love in which even we gasp at the gargantuan splendour of the grand ball where the prince must choose his wife.
While this Cinderella unquestionably dazzles the senses, screenwriter Chris Weitz is shackled to fond memories of the hand-drawn film and consequently, he has almost no room for flourishes of originality.
The plot arc is predetermined, the ugly stepsisters don’t hack off their heels or toes to squeeze into a misplaced glass slipper, and Helena Bonham Carter’s fairy godmother isn’t quite as eccentric as she or we would like as she engineers the film’s best set-piece with a flick of her wand. “I don’t go transforming pumpkins for just anyone!” she chirps.
No, the special effects wizards do and they accomplish the pivotal sequence with aplomb.
Before all of the jiggery-pokery with a pumpkin, four mice and a goose, Ella (Lily James) is consigned to the kitchen by her vindictive stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and brattish stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera).
Emboldened by the dying words of her mother (Hayley Atwell) – “Have courage and be kind” – Ella tries to rise above the bullying.
When the name-calling becomes too frightful, she escapes on horseback and catches the eye of the dashing Prince (Richard Madden), who must pick a bride at the behest of the dying King (Derek Jacobi).
So the Prince throws a lavish ball where Ella makes her grand entrance then disappears as the clock chimes midnight, leaving behind footwear that would surely pose a health and safety risk in any other film.
“Find that girl – the forgetful one who loses her shoes!” decrees the Captain of the royal guard (Nonzo Anosie).
Cinderella will enchant a generation of girls, who dream of donning the tiara of a Disney princess.
James and Madden are an attractive screen pairing, while Blanchett draws inspiration from Joan Crawford to cast a formidable shadow from beneath the brim of her character’s extravagant hats.
“I do love a happy ending, don’t you?” gushes one of the characters.
Branagh’s film certainly does, without a hint of irony.
The main feature is preceded by the animated short Frozen Fever, which continues the adventures of sisters Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) as they prepare for a birthday celebration.
Loveable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and hunky Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) also return and the script includes a cute reference to the blockbusting film when ice queen Elsa sneezes and chirrups, “A cold never bothered me anyway!”