Live action film ‘Cinderella’ lives up to expectations

Rebecca Smalbach

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The clock strikes midnight and Cinderella starts running, her long blue dress billowing out behind her.

One glass shoe falls off her foot and she looks back before running on, desperate to make it home before the spell breaks.

Kenneth Branagh’s live-action interpretation of “Cinderella” is a charming take on the fairy tale classic. The movie keeps many of the elements that made Disney’s animated movie from 1950 so enchanting.

CINDERELLA, portrayed by Lily James, stares into the eyes of the Prince (Richard Madden) in the new live action Disney film Cinderella.

CINDERELLA, portrayed by Lily James, stares into the eyes of the Prince (Richard Madden) in the new live action Disney film Cinderella.

The basic story is the same, where Cinderella goes from a servant plagued by evil stepsisters and stepmother to a princess.

She still goes to the ball, meets her true love, and lives happily ever after.

Even many specifics are the same, such as the mice that Cinderella communicates with, the prince who goes searching through the kingdom to find the girl who fits the shoe, and of course her beautiful blue dress.

However, with a running time of 112 minutes, this newer “Cinderella” includes a lot of backstory for each of the characters that does not exist in any other version.

Branagh also brings new characters to the old story in the form of the Grand Duke and the Captain in the Prince’s court.

The characters both help to bring life and dimension to the Prince, as played by Richard Madden.

The Prince is given a much larger role than in the animated classic, due to an emotional father-son backstory.

However, this backstory can seem long and stretched out, and at times detracts from the main plotline.

Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother is delightfully wicked, and she deservedly gets a lot of screen time.

The motives for her cruelty to Cinderella are well fleshed out, to the point where her ambitions can seem extraneous from the main plot of the story.

Lily James is perfectly cast as Cinderella due to her sweetly innocent persona.

James’ pretty yet approachable look supplements the common Disney narrative of the heroine who has lost her parents.

In this newer version, Cinderella is allowed more freedom and spirit, and speaks her mind more frequently.

Disney even has her meet the Prince before the ball while riding bareback on a horse in order to underscore her independence.

James manages to strike the perfect balance between stereotypical helpless princess and strong heroine, ensuring that every scene with her in it maintains elements from the 1950 classic animated version, while still surprising audiences with Cinderella’s newfound sense of independence.

The most visually pleasing aspect of the movie is the costumes.  In Branagh’s version, set in some indeterminate time from the past, Cinderella’s dresses are made from rich fabrics in soft colors.

The evil stepsisters, on the other hand, have bright garish gowns that stick out like sore thumbs from the idyllic country mansion where Cinderella lives.

Each scene in “Cinderella” is an idealized version of the real thing, where every corner is filled with interesting knick-knacks, and every flower is prettier than it has ever looked before.

However, this perfection breaks occasionally with good reason when well-timed comedic relief takes the screen.

Helena Bonham Carter is excellent as the Fairy Godmother. She turns a character who was once the epitome of grace and manners in Disney’s animated Cinderella into a wacky, bumbling fairy that’s still learning the ropes.

Though “Cinderella” feels slightly too long at times, it is a beautifully done modern adaptation of the classic fairytale.

Well-developed characters and gorgeous scenery make this one of the better live action movies that Disney has attempted.