Disney own our childhoods, and they’re cashing in. Cinderella is the latest in a series of adapted for adults, hyper-realistic, live-action remakes of our fondest adolescent memories.
The story doesn’t need repeating – Cinderella (Lily James) is helped along to the ball by her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter in a sadly short cameo). There she meets the handsome Prince played by Richard Madden (better known as Robb Stark from Game of Thrones) who like his previous fictional incarnation simply refuses to listen to marriage advice.
The two hit it off, and in what could have been a grievous casting error or simply a let-down from one or both actors, both James and Madden have genuine, palpable chemistry. Their scenes together, some consisting of the two dancing, are beguiling and captivating – think Tony and Maria meeting on the dance floor in West Side Story, or any scene involving Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
Best of all, Cate Blanchett radiates an alluring vulgarity as Cinderella’s infamous stepmother, achieving a cartoonish exuberance reminiscent of classic Disney cartoons. Blanchett leaps out at us from the screen as if she were actually painted with primary colours, achieving what Angelina Jolie captured so consummately in Maleficent.
Cinderella, like Maleficent before it, attempts to walk the line between a classic fairy-tale and darker reboot, appealing to both children and their parents/adults who grew up with the original cartoons. Director Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation has all the feeling of a land far away, while dealing with Cinderella’s abuse and neglect by her step-family in a slightly more realistic manner. This formula is not without its problems – marketed widely but not exclusively to children, Cinderella suffers from being too dark for much of its target audience while rendering itself excessively whimsical and ‘happy-ever-after’ for a generation now relishing jarring, grittier reboots.
Forgoing the Pixar model of appealing to a wider audience with universal, modern themes or by littering gags adults can chuckle at throughout the film (Toy Story, Up), the latest Cinderella adaptation is stuck too deeply in a ‘Once Upon a Time World.’ It’s just gritty and realistic enough to confuse, rather than deliver a modern take which an older audience can get behind.
Disney and Universal, amongst others, appear determined to capitalize on our childhoods through adultifying stories which have an inbuilt, loyal audience like Cinderella. Studios have announced soon to be sequels to Alice in Wonderlandand Snow White and the Huntsman, the latter notably absent of Kristen Stewart’s Snow White and simply called The Huntsman. Live action remakes of Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson), Mulan, Dumbo, The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh are in the works – The Hunchback of Notre Dame will likely be next.
Cinderella, the latest in the trend, will see itself marketed in any number of ways. While enjoyable, thoroughly charming and a model in superb casting it simply could not be everything to everyone.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5