Directed by:  Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter, Nonso Anozie, and Hayley Atwell

Disney has always been adept at developing and selling princess fantasies.  In 1950, Disney’s animated version of Cinderella garnered critical and commercial success, and Cinderella became a vital component of the Disney brand.  But Disney did not stop with Cinderella and her predecessor Snow White.  Disney has delivered a string of lovable princesses from Belle to Jasmine to Ariel to Tiana and Merida.  Most recently, Anna and Elsa took the world by storm in Frozen.  Elsa and Anna are strong female characters that are at times powerful, brave, loving and funny.  They are not saved by a man, but instead, save each other.  There are stark differences between the Frozen heroines and Cinderella.  Yet, Disney pairs its new live version of Cinderella with a short film entitled Frozen Fever, and Anna and Elsa overshadow the more traditional Cinderella.

Ella (Eloise Webb/Lily James) grows up with two loving parents in a small kingdom.  They live with love and laughter.  Unfortunately, Ella’s mother falls ill and passes away.  Before she dies, Ella’s mother tells her to always have courage and be kind.  Ella grows up living by that motto.  When Ella is older, her father remarries, and Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) becomes Ella’s new stepmother.  Lady Tremaine has two silly daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera).  Whereas Ella and her father are loving and kind, Lady Tremaine and her daughters focus only on material trappings, parties and fashion.  Ella still endeavors to treat them as family.  Shortly after the marriage, Ella’s father departs on a business trip.  While away, he falls ill and passes away.

Ella is devastated by her father’s death.  Lady Tremaine and her daughters, on the other hand, are furious that they are now left to fend for themselves.  Without a man working and bringing in income, they are forced to dismiss the house staff.  Lady Tremaine forces Ella to move to the attic and assume all of the chores of the household.  Ella cleans, cooks, and maintains the entire estate while Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella relax.  While Ella is in the forest one day, she stumbles upon a hunting party.  She meets and flirts with a handsome stranger, Kit (Richard Madden).  Ella believes that he is a simple apprentice.  Unbeknownst to her, Kit is actually the prince and heir to the throne.  Kit is captivated by her as well, but he does not know how to find her after their chance encounter in the forest.  He decides to hold a ball open to nobles and country women to select his bride.  Ella fights her fear and her stepfamily to attend the ball and spend time with Prince Charming.

Director Kenneth Branagh delivers a visually stunning film that is filled with rich vibrant colors.  The kingdom is picturesque, set in a town surrounded by mountains and ocean.  In addition, the costume design is remarkable.  Cate Blanchett’s wardrobe is a vision.  Every single dress that Blanchett wears is runway ready and literally jumps off of the screen.  While Blanchett’s “Mommie Dearest” like performance is the most biting note of the film, her costumes and hats steal the show.  Helena Bonham Carter’s depiction of Ella’s fairy godmother is perfection.  Bonham Carter looks gorgeous and plays the fairy godmother with the right bit of sauciness and humor. 

While I respect the quality of the filmmaking and the cast’s performances, I found this film to be dated and boring.  Cinderella is a tale that we all are intimately familiar with.  We have seen it in in films, cartoons, books and even recently on Broadway.  In my humble opinion, it did not need to be remade into a live action film if Disney and Branagh were not going to bring something new and fresh to the table.  The 1998 film Ever After, with Drew Barrymore as the lead, provided a fresh take on Cinderella.  While she was courageous and kind, she was also smart.  She did not simply sing and look pretty while waiting for someone to save her—she turned the sword on her captor and saved herself before the prince even arrived.  Moreover, she did not just meet someone once and fall in love.  Barrymore’s Cinderella had an extended relationship with the prince and fell in love gradually.   Branagh’s more traditional Cinderella feels antiquated in today’s society.

Moreover, on the heels of Frozen, Cinderella just did not work for me.  As I sat and watched the Frozen Fever short before Cinderella started, I thought about how pumped my 5 year-old daughter was going to be to see Frozen 2.  As I watched Cinderella, however, I knew that I would not show this film to her.  Aside from the fact that a young child would be slightly bored with the lack of action, I do not want her caught up in this particular fairy tale.  I would rather she watch something that actually gives female characters a brain, heart and independence. 

Cinderella earns a 0.09% rating.  You will need a cocktail to make it through this one.  My recommendation is to skip this film and watch Ever After.