One of the biggest challenges that Disney's new iteration of Cinderella faced was convincing the audience that it deserved to be made in the first place. This marks the studio's fourth exploration of the classic fairy tale, one of which was featured just a few months ago in the musical Into the Woods. And with such disappointing reinterpretations of their own stories as the recent Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, Disney needed to prove that they could retell their tales in a movie worthy of Walt himself. Luckily, Cinderella is just the ticket.
A word of caution for modern audiences: don't go into the Cinderella expecting a brand new take on the original rags-to-riches story. This is a decidedly old-fashioned movie that, apart from the overabundance of CGI, could have been made sixty years ago. However, this does not mean that it is at all stuffy or boring or any other negative connotation that today's audiences sometimes apply to older movies. This Cinderella is enchanting and refreshing because it is so old-fashioned. The simple story remains as charming and moving as ever.
The visual elements of the film are especially worthy of note. Aside from being gorgeous, the costumes serve to aid the story. For example, the wicked stepmother, played by a deliciously evil Cate Blanchett, is constantly dressed in tight skirts under billowing dresses that are reminiscent of the conformist 1940s and 50s and help to reinforce the rigidity of her character. Conversely, Cinderella's famous ball gown is voluptuous and flowing, and in the stunning transformation sequence it literally blossoms from the rags she was previously forced to wear. It is a magnificent visual flourish that helps to emphasize the character's new-found freedom.
The best moment of the movie is the pivotal ball scene. The dance between the Prince and Cinderella is exquisitely choreographed, perfectly showing the couple fall in love without even exchanging a word. In addition, the ensuing sequence where Cinderella flees the ball is thrilling, which is especially surprising in such a familiar story.
One of the only major flaws in the movie is the overuse of CGI. It is to be expected in scenes involving magic, but nearly every animal and location is also computer rendered. Unfortunately, none of the animation is particularly convincing, which sticks out like a sore thumb in such an otherwise traditionalist movie. Additionally, there are some pacing problems, especially in the Fairy Godmother scene, which happens so quickly it appears practically unimportant.
If you're looking for a treat for the family, Cinderella is a wonderful experience for all members of the household. The screening that I attended was full of children, many in Cinderella dresses, and both they and their accompanying parents were enraptured for the entire movie. Cinderella is steadfastly old-fashioned and shows that there's still magic to be found in even the most familiar of stories.
Cinderella is now playing at the Sparta Theatre.