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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 19, 2015

Cinderella Review: A Fairly Good Re-imagining Of A Familiar Story

THE Cinderella fairy tale has been told and retold several times. The most familiar version is the 1950 Disney animated cartoon based on “Cendrillon” by Charles Perrault. Our granddaughter keeps on watching it repeatedly on DVD so we’re really familiar with its songs, notably “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, "So This Is Love", "Sing Sweet Nightingale", "The Work Song" and the title song "Cinderella".

Somehow, we’re hoping to hear them in the latest live action remake of the story with Lily James of “Downton Abbey” and Richard Madden of “Game of Thrones” in the lead roles, directed by actor-director Kenneth Brannagh (“Thor”). But only “A Dream is a Wish” is used and only in the closing credits, like what they did with “Once a Dream” when they turned “Sleeping Beauty” into the live action “Maleficent”.

In fairness to Brannagh, he makes a fairly good job of reimagining an already familiar story for today’s audiences. It doesn’t radically re-tell the story like in “Maleficent” where it’s not the kiss of the Prince that wakes up the sleeping heroine but Maleficent’s. So those who are hoping that the Prince will end up with the cruel stepmom Lady Tremaine (played by Cate Blanchett) and not Cinderella, will be somewhat disappointed. LOL.

Even cynics might appreciate this sweet and sincere version of the well loved tale. Lily manages to be an endearing Ella, basically good-natured but knows how to fight back. Richard might be vertically challenged as the prince but he has his own charms. Helena Bonham Carter has only one long sequence as the Fairy Godmother but she gets to narrate the whole story with her pleasant voice. It’s fun to see her transform a pumpkin, a goose, mice and lizards into a coach, a coachman, horses and footmen. As the villain, Cate goes to town with an entire wardrobe of astonishing costumes that make her shine in all her scenes with engineered elegance. She’s given the chance to tell her own story to help us understand her own situation and it helps to humanize her a bit.

The film is greatly aided by the fantastic production design and beautiful costumes, complete with a swoony romantic musical score. Of course, they do tweak the traditional story. For instance, Ella here first meets the Prince in the forest and doesn’t recognize him to be the royalty that he really is. The whole grand ball sequence is fabulously staged, with Ella in a ravishing blue ball gown doing a well choreographed dance sequence with the dashing Prince.

And since this is live action, the mice friends of Ella don’t talk, much less sing. And that’s what we really miss in this version, the songs. Actually, we find “Ever After”, another take on the Cinderella story starring Drew Barrymore as the heroine and Angelica Huston as the stepmom, made in 1998, definitely more engaging and captivating than this one.

The movie has a special added attraction, a short film called “Frozen Fever”, with Ice Queen Elsa organizing a birthday party for sister Anna. It’s less than 10 minutes but manages to be quite entertaining.