One for hopeless romantics and 8-year-olds (★★★★ Directed by Kenneth Branagh.)
Loathe though I am to admit it, I might just be a little too hard-hearted to really enjoy this new version of Cinderella.
Fair enough too, since director Kenneth Branagh’s target audience is at least half (OK, an eighth) of my age, which is how young you have to be these days to believe, as Cinderella asks you to, in the power of kindness to make dreams come true.
Still, if ever a film was going to put the rose coloured glasses back on my haggard old boot of a face, it’d be one as sweet natured and enchanting as Disney’s live action version of the 1950 animated classic.
It sticks pretty closely to the original, this glossy new version, retelling the tale of the mystery girl who evades her wicked stepmother’s machinations to capture the heart of Prince Charming to the letter.
Branagh’s Cinderella (Lily James) however, doesn’t get a modern make-over so much a live-action spruce up, pouring on the glitter, sweetness and adorable woodland creatures in good measure.
What is new are peripheral characters who have motivations and stories of their own.
The relationship between Prince Kit (Richard Madden) and his dear old dad (Derek Jacobi) for example is genuinely touching, while the manipulative wicked stepmother is given more depth and motivation than ever before in Cate Blanchett’s capable hands.
Indeed, Blanchett takes what could have been a hammy Pantomime sort of role and gives it so much life I couldn’t help wishing there was more of her in fabulous frocks, twisting men around her dexterous fingers.
Cinderella isn’t about that kind of thing, however. It’s about young love, and that really does shine.
Madden and James are so perfectly matched in charm and attractiveness it’s almost impossible to deny them – however mired in reality you might be.
Madden is as dashing as any Prince Charming should be. One does rather miss his Game of Thrones whiskers (He was Robb Stark and a King then), but again, this is not a film for the likes of me.
James is as sweet as a summer peach and ten times as pretty, without being too simpering or coquettish. And she embodies a kind of old-world collectedness that’s rare in films directed at young women these days.
Ultimately, the magic is in Cinderella’s details, in the individual characters of Cinders’ animal friends, the cosy clutter of her country home, the ostentation of the palaces – not to mention Cate Blanchett’s wardrobe – and in the budding young love between Cinders and her Kit.
So, in the spirit of the film’s heroine I choose not to be unkind, even in the face of such unapologetic and unevolved schmaltz.
Besides, sneering at Cinders and Kit’s doe-eyed love is like kicking a puppy in front of a 5-year-old, and even I’m not quite that bitter and twisted yet.
Cinderella delivers, as promised, tender romance for true believers, true romantics and wanton escapists, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, if the shoe fits…