Cinderella is so boring, I was zoning out before the stepmother even gets evil. Since it’s such a traditional Cinderella adaptation, we know exactly how much longer we have to wait too. They’re still getting dressed for the ball? Come on! Even after the ball we still have all the glass slipper business to get through.
Making such a traditional Cinderella film really illustrates what a weak story Cinderella is to begin with. Walt Disney was right to add talking mice and singing fairy godmothers. I had a bad feeling when the goofy naive dad (Ben Chaplin) goes off to remarry, but I cut him some slack because he’s never seen Cinderella before. Once it gets going, you realize all that happens is Cinderella (Lily James) meets a guy and gets to move away from home.
Any attempts to jazz up the story with comedy and visual effects feel all the more glaring because there’s no room for them and they add nothing. The naming of Cinderella is a particular groan. They add a carriage chase for some action too, but it’s a reach, it’s filler and it’s just more CG. The production values are great of course. Costumes, sets and performances are A-list. It’s just the material that doesn’t hold up.
Watching the glass slipper episode play out in live action confirms why Cinderella only works as a story for children. You tell kids that the only way the prince can find Cinderella is if her shoe fits. Kids don’t think, “Wait, doesn’t he remember what she looked like?” Even when they add some shenanigans about the Prince (Richard Madden) being so busy he has to send a search party out with the shoe, he would at least give them a basic description. She’s a blonde white girl. So maybe they test brunettes too just in case she did a dye job since the ball, but you certainly don’t need to test ethnic girls. I know, I know, beauty is within, but everyone saw them dancing at the ball. They know she’s Caucasian.
And what about all those cheats who thought they could make the shoe fit them? What’s their endgame? Lots of women have the same shoe size. Let’s say an impostor gets her foot in there and she gets to meet the prince. What happens then? You think he’s going to go, “Close enough?” There isn’t a second place prize for this. He either finds Cinderella or he doesn’t marry anyone. It’s such a stupid story.
As the wicked stepmother, Cate Blanchett doesn’t have much of a part because the stepmother doesn’t actually do anything. She’s reacting to Cinderella’s optimism, trying to crush it, but the only active thing she does is try to give her daughters a chance at the slipper. The character’s passive aggressive behavior is obvious to any modern day adult, but it wouldn’t be to kids or innocent naifs in the pre-psychology era, so perhaps it is a lesson to recognize passive-aggression.
Helena Bonham Carter gets to do more than Blanchett but she has an actual part to play. The Fairy Godmother is only in one scene, but it’s the scene in which something actually happens and there are consequences laid out.
Ultimately, Cinderella has a good message. Kindness prevails, so stay true to your kind heart because there will always be people trying to make you as miserable as they are. If kids get that, it’ll be worth it.
Rating: Wait for Cable