Cinderella

I was thinking…

…a sign you’re engaged in a good story is that you already know what happens in it, including the ending, and yet are still interested and excited to embark upon the journey to the conclusion nevertheless. Why else would we watch the same movies over and over again? Why else would we read the same book more than once?

Cinderella is a perfect example of such a story. Dating as far back as the middle of the 17th century, the tale has been told and re-told. The Neapolitan Giambattista Basile added it to a collection of fairy tales, circa 1634. The French writer Charles Perrault then retold it in 1697 with some additions. The transforming pumpkin, the fairy godmother and the glass slippers were such notable inclusions, they persist to this day.

The Brothers Grimm, perhaps most often credited for the folktale, did not actually collect it among their works until nearly two hundred years after it first saw publication. However, their version is about as far removed as can be from the loveable children’s bedtime story with which most of us are familiar. In true Germanic fashion, Aschenputtel, as it is called in German, involves self-mutilation and Heaven-sent doves of vengeance.

I’m not kidding.

It has seen so many incarnations in ballet, opera and film, one more addition, one would think, would hardly be noticed. Enter the Disney era: fairy godmother, talking mice, glass slippers and humorously selfish step-sisters intact. When good ol’ Walt premiered his animated take of the tale in 1950, the world was introduced to what became the new standard for Cinderella.

65 years later, the magic of technology has finally caught up with the magic in the story, allowing Disney to make their version the way Walt may have liked to back then.

George Lucas isn’t the only one who likes to tinker.

Normally I would encapsulate the synopsis of the story at this point, but I am fairly certain just about everyone has at least a working knowledge of Cinderella by now. And if not, well, welcome to the Western world. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I’ll help you out with a trailer.

This may disappoint some or come as a relief to others, but Disney and Kenneth Branagh‘s (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Thor) live action Cinderella is not a shot-for-shot remake of their 1950 outing. It does utilize the same general story, however. And there are some notable and noticeable alterations. The mice do not really speak and it is not a musical (sorry, no “Cinderellie,” no “Bippity-Boppity-Boo,” although the latter does make an appearance during the credits). Furthermore, the emotional core of the film is stronger than what can be felt in the animated feature.

That being said, there are some minor imperfections. Once one can get past the obvious veneers plastered over the Fairy Godmother’s teeth, though, one will be drenched in a deluge of color, beautiful costumes and, thankfully, more than competent acting.

The cast was wonderfully chosen. Lily James (Wrath of the Titans, Downton Abbey) portrays an innocent and demure Cinderella while Cate Blanchett practically steals the show as the icy, diabolical, and scheming wicked stepmother. Away with the rotund and cherubic Fairy Godmother, Helena Boham-Carter instead fills the role in all her quirky glory. And Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) carries the mantle of the prince in a humble, modest and, indeed, powerful manner.

It is, in fact, a scene near the end between the prince and his father–played by the immortal Derek Jacobi (Hamlet, Underworld: Evolution)–that stirs more up from the depths of the emotional cauldron than any moment between Cinderella and anyone else.

Not that Lily James’ titular character is without her moments to shine. And she radiates the most when following the advice left her by her mother. Shortly before the latter shuffles off this mortal coil, she leaves the yet un-epithet’ed (it’s a word now) Ella with the simple words of advice that carry her through her most trying days: “Have courage and be kind.”

Herein lies the moral of the story; they are words by which to live. Kindness is not always repaid, but for that reason courage is also needed.

Real life is rarely magical and almost never has a “happily ever after.” For that very reason the words which Cinderella always strives to embody are the most important aspect of this film. Certainly the movie is geared toward girls and women wishing to be swept back to a time when they believed there really was a Prince Charming waiting to carry them away, but the moral at the core of this tale is not meant for them alone. It is meant to remind us all–girls, women, boys and men–how important it is to maintain the innocence and the purity of childhood.

Ammo Dump rating: 8 out of 10 glass slippers

I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show. Listen in every Friday afternoon starting at 4:10 on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on WJBC.com or the “iHeartRadio” app on your smart phone. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @ALphaEXray.

Cinderella
Rated PG
Run time: 113 minutes

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