I don’t think it’s a secret, Disney has managed to turn princess movies into a separate genre and has a diabolical marketing scheme.
How many gigantic displays of Frozen-related marketing have you seen in stores? Do you catch yourself hearing “Let it Go” on the radio and slightly groaning? How many Elsas came to your door on Halloween?
Disney will milk that cash cow for all it’s worth.
Using the Princess genre films to influence girls and boys of all ages for generations. Disney will “adapt” a fairy tale and tweak the plot to match their formula and make quite a bit of money off of their film.
The latest of these films is the live action remake of Cinderella. This film was directed by Kenneth Brannagh—Professor Lockhart from Harry Potter and director of Hamlet and Thor for Disney.
Starring Lilly James in the title role, along with Richard Madden who played Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, and Sir Derek Jacobi, Vicious with Sir Ian McKellen, Stellen Skarsgard, Thor, The Avengers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Helena Bonham Carter Sweeny Todd, Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter, and the villainous Cate Blanchett from Lord of the Rings. Every single frame of this film is drenched in Disney. Does this make it a bad movie?
Well, I think it depends.
The popular argument against this film is that it’s a shot for shot remake of the cartoon. It’s thought of as be boring. It hits all of the plot points of the Disney cartoon from the 50’s: happy family, mother dies suddenly, father marries step mother with step sisters, father mysteriously dies, Cinderella becomes family slave, enter Prince “bland and boring” Charming, fairy godmother helps Cinderella out, attends the ball, and so on until happily ever after.
This film is a very close remake, but it’s not quite there. The iconic images of the cartoon are present throughout such as the beautiful blue ball gown, the pumpkin carriage, the mice friends who help Cinderella out and the wicked step mother’s murderous cat.
The film still follows “Disney Princess Genre tropes,” the popular Disney trope of killing off a parent after having fun with the child, usually in about five minutes of the movie. Cinderella is obedient to the step mother’s tyrannical rule, and she and the Prince have a chance encounter and magically fall in love. The step sisters are remarkably stupid, insufferable idiots, that don’t get their toes or heels hacked off, or their eyes pecked out, which was a slight disappointment to me. The stepmother is a tyrant with the demeanor of a James Bond villain and the style of Joan Crawford.
Cinderella is told to “have courage and be kind” even to those who are absolutely cruel to her. Her passive aggressive nature can be seen as anti-feminist. All in all, it’s not a very strong script, but there are a few standouts. This movie gives the bland and boring Prince a character! And a name! How about that? He goes by “Kit.”
Kit is reluctant to take over his ailing father’s throne, and he’s trying to figure out what it means to be a king by being forced to marry for convenience, not for love.
He wants to include everyone in the kingdom to the ball, not just royals, though he worries about being a good king in his father’s place.
There is a very effective scene between Madden and Jacobi that challenges tropes against “manly leading men” and shows a son scared to lose his father.
The other big standout is Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine. She’s over-the-top, Mommie Dearest incarnate, and absolutely villainous. It’s almost hard to believe this is the same actress who plays the serene Lady Galadriel in the Tolkien films.
This film also humanizes the step mother. She tells Cinderella that once upon a time, she, too, was an innocent girl who dreamed of true love and happy things. Another change from the Disney cartoon that is for the better.
The effort put into the costumes and sets are quite impressive. It takes a lot of work to put together sets that are as detailed as these, as well as the costumes. I would describe this movie as “costume porn.” The dresses are colorful, beautiful, bright and all different.
The stepmother wears stylized dresses that could have been pulled from a Joan Crawford movie, Cinderella wears her iconic costumes from the cartoon, and the Prince wears his typical uniform, but there are so many different, detailed pieces to look at, it’s enjoyable.
As a kid I hated Cinderella, I thought she was bland, boring and irritating. The Disney princesses of my era were Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. This was Disney’s first foray into making the female characters a bit more independent and well-rounded.
But to be honest, this film made me really enjoy the story. Lilly James makes the best of what she has, and we do feel terrible for her when she’s faced with no hope. She’s a likeable person and we want to see her get out of this terrible situation.
While she does put up with arguably pretty terrible abuse, she genuinely believes if she is kind to others, no matter how cruel someone may be, everyone deserves basic kindness. I’m OK with that moral.
Something that differentiates this film from its cartoon counterpart is the music. While it’s a Disney film, and hints of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” and “Bibbiti-Bobbiti-boo!” appear on the soundtrack. It’s the fairy tale aspect of this I think I enjoyed. Every now and then, a little predictability doesn’t hurt.
For my final verdict as to who would like this, I would say if you like Disney, this original cartoon was actually Walt Disney’s favorite, a pretty looking chick flick, Kenneth Brannagh’s previous films, or happy idealistic fairy tales, I’d say get a group of friends and go have fun.
We’ll be getting another live action retelling of a Disney princess film in 2017 with Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson and Emma Thompson., which is another film that might feel unnecessary.
Final verdict: 7/10
Photo Credit: Disney