Cinderella review: Don't take your kids to see this dull, boring fairy tale
There are few occasions when you feel relieved that your life is not a fairy tale. Disney’s live action <em>Cinderella</em> is one of them.
There are very few occasions when you feel relieved that your life is not a fairy tale and that you don’t have a Prince Charming by your side. Disney’s live action Cinderella is one of them.
Watching Kenneth Brannagh’s mind-numbing retelling of this classic makes you feel thankful for the fact that you don’t live in a Disney reality. This means women don’t have to threaten the structural purity of their torsos by squeezing into corsets. Thanks to that undergarment, Lily James, who plays the heroine Ella, has a waist that is about the size of a normal woman’s wrist and spends most of the film struggling to breathe.
Her Prince Charming is Kit, played by Richard Madden. Madden was last seen as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones and as the insipid heir to the Disney kingdom in Cinderella, he’s so bland and forgettable that you find yourself wishing someone would throw a Red Wedding into this mix.
No such luck. All Brannagh has for us is a devastatingly dull story about a girl who is a spineless mess and wears a truly hideous pair of glass slippers (high heels, actually). Ella, in Cinderella, may well be truly insane — she thinks she can talk to animals, and believes letting her stepmother and stepsisters ride roughshod over her is a sign of courage. She doesn’t fight, she doesn’t protest, she doesn’t rebel. All she does is sigh, weep and delude herself into thinking she’s happy.
The one bright spark in Cinderella is Cate Blanchett, who plays Ella’s stepmother. Blanchett looks magnificent and the only time there’s any wrinkle of complexity in the story is when evil glimmers in Blanchett’s ageless features. Sadly, it’s not good enough reason to sit through this wretched disaster of a film.
For reasons best known to him, Brannagh chose to essentially replicate the cartoon version of Cinderella. His direction offers none of the wit or mischief that we associate with Brannagh, who managed to make a dead-end superhero film like Thor fun. Ella’s docility and willingness to be trampled upon may have worked as an ideal of feminine winsomeness back in 1950 when the original cartoon was made, but times have changed. Disney is aware of this. Tangled and Frozen are proof of the studio realising that the traditional Disney princess needs a makeover. That Cinderella doesn’t make any effort to modernise Ella or add some muscle to her character suggests this is Brannagh at his absolute laziest.
Last year, Disney produced Into The Woods, an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning Broadway musical, which imagines what happens to Cinderella and other fairy tale characters when they starting living their “happily ever after”. Prince Charming turns out to be a bit of a lecher and royal life bores Cinderella. Even though it didn’t offer the obvious happy endings or trot out the stereotypes that Cinderella does, Into the Woods had excellent box office earnings as well as critical approval. One might have hoped that this would give Disney and Brannagh the courage to update Cinderella. Instead, they chose to do the exact opposite: they stuck to the old story. It didn’t even strike them to fiddle with Cinderella’s deadline. Unless you're pub-crawling Bengaluru, which adult thinks midnight is a reasonable time to head home from a party?
Even if Brannagh and his screenwriter Chris Weitz couldn’t be bothered with updating Ella, you’d think they’d make the effort to make Prince Charming live up to his name since Cinderella is, after all, targeted at women and girls. Madden might be the least charming hero that we’ve seen in this decade. It doesn’t help that he’s clothed in 18th century style breeches and jackets in Candy Crush colours. In addition to this sartorial nightmare, the prince’s one great conundrum is that he wants a love marriage but is being pushed towards an arranged marriage. While this means he has something in common with heroes of NRI rom-coms, it doesn’t make for a particularly exciting conflict and is painfully past its expiry date as an idea.
Ironically, the motto that Ella in Cinderella lives by is, “Have courage and be kind.” Had Brannagh found some courage with his storytelling, he would have shown kindness to audiences who walk in to Cinderella hoping for Brannagh’s storytelling skills and instead get old-fashioned slop that’s so unimaginative that it borders on offensive.
Parents, don’t take your daughters to see this one, even if it is a Disney film.
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