Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, so the saying goes. The rags-to-riches underdog story of Cinderella is one of our most cherished and beloved fairy tales, and it’s only inevitable that Disney would give it the modern treatment. Although the 1950 animated feature holds up well today, the popularity and commercial success of recent remakes of classics like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ make such an update all but irresistible. Moreover, with the wonders of contemporary CGI, the sky truly is the limit in bringing our favorite bedtime stories to life on the big screen in ways we’ve never seen before.
In that regard, Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Cinderella’ is a wondrous and magical confection of a movie. Vibrantly beautiful and vividly colorful, this film is “picture perfect” with great attention to detail in set design and costumes. Unlike ‘Maleficent,’ Branagh’s remake is a straightforward and faithful adaptation of the original Disney classic, as we follow Cinderella’s (Lily James of 'Downton Abbey') life from her blessed childhood with loving parents to her mistreatment by her evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and sisters after both her parents died before her fortunes took a turn for the better again when the Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) aided our fair maiden after she met her handsome prince (Richard Madden) in a chance encounter within the forest.
So what is it about ‘Cinderella’ that allowed it to rake in $70 million at the box office on its opening weekend and earn such wide critical acclaim? Branagh is a capable director, but his previous credit was the box office flop ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,’ an unsuccessful attempt to reboot the popular Tom Clancy franchise. The story of Cinderella is timeless and enduring because its heroine never lost faith in the face of adversity and always lived her life by the words her mother left her before she died, to “have courage and be kind.” But perhaps even more than that, it’s also a fantastic fairy tale with a happy ending and its own built‑in audience. While the movie dragged a bit and played it fairly safe, it's still a delightfully sweet confection for the whole family.