Review by Gavin Miller: Director Kenneth Branagh plays one of Disney’s iconic animated fairy tales remarkably straight – but the lack of surprises actually makes it endearingly watchable.
There’s not a lot of twist and turns as The House of Mouse continues its golden box-office run of turning its famous animations into fully-fledged movies and this is arguably the best yet.
It may lack the ‘risks’ taken with the previous efforts, but British ‘thesp’ Kenneth Branagh keeps it close to the source material with a likeable cast and a faithful old-fashioned charm.
Lily James puts in a quietly competent and understated performance as the title character, and is superbly supported by Richard Madden’s amiable Prince, and a devilishly horrid turn from two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s cruel stepmother.
When a sad turn of events leaves ‘Ella orphaned after illness takes her mother (Hayley Atwell), and later her father (Ben Chaplin), she is turned into a house slave by the wicked Lady Tremaine – aided by her ignorant daughters (Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera) – who had moved into the family home after striking a companionship with her Dad before his death.
But fortunately the kind-hearted Ella has some luck in store via Helena Bonham Carter’s Fairy Godmother.
You know the story: and that’s exactly the strengths the film plays to – one of the few special effects sections sets the exciting scene as the pumpkin inevitably turns into a carriage – and it never diversifies away from the obvious.
It won’t win any awards for ingenuity as the clock strikes midnight – but does what it does in a refreshingly back-to-basics and traditionally romantic way that you can’t help but enjoy.
And seeing Cinderella in that jaw-dropping dress can’t help but put a smile on your face – as Disney does it again.