Cinderella Blu-ray Review

What’s It About? In an age of revisionist fairy tales like Frozen, Maleficent and Into The Woods, Disney stay relatively old-school in the live-action remake of their classic 1950s animation, Cinderella.

Verdict: Downton Abbey star Lily James brings a genuine sweetness and lightness to the role of the good-hearted Ella whose stepfamily turns her into a skivvy, nicknaming her Cinderella.

Richard Madden, who’s best known as Robb Stark in Game Of Thrones, gives a charming performance as the Prince. And James and Madden make a perfect on-screen pair.

As Cinders’ stepmother, Lady Tremaine, Cate Blanchett shows, yet again, what an exceptional actress she is. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from her whenever she’s on screen, whether she’s doling out chores and making catty comments to Cinders, scheming her way up the social ladder, rolling her eyes at her talentless offspring, or draping herself over furniture and in doorways. Think Bette Davis meets Joan Crawford. In short, Blanchett is sensational.

Holliday Grainger from The Borgias and Sophie McShera from Downton Abbey also do a great job as Cinderella’s spiteful and selfish stepsisters.

And the always brilliant Helena Bonham Carter swoops in as Cinders’ Fairy Godmother and almost steals the show, despite having just one scene. In fact, she’s so fantastic that she leaves you wishing she had more screen-time. Still, we do hear her voice throughout as she narrates various parts of the film, and, in a nice touch over the end credits, she sings Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo from Disney’s animated Cinderella!

Speaking of music, there’s a lovely score by Patrick Doyle, who’s worked many times before with Cinderella’s director Kenneth Branagh and whose music you’ll have heard on other films such as Pixar’s Brave. Apart from the folk song Lavender’s Blue, there aren’t any songs in the film and, to be honest, I did miss that, especially given the classic songs we know from Disney’s animated features and the superb live-action feature Enchanted.

If you’re wondering what the movie’s transformation scenes are like, let me tell you that they are just spectacular – a dazzling, dreamy delight. There are two transformations you’ll be expecting, the ones before and after Cinders goes to the Ball, and there’s a little extra surprise to look forward to.

Oh, and just as you’d expect, the scenes where Cinders arrives at the palace and dances with the Prince are brimming with old-school style.

Costume designer Sandy Powell has done an incredible job, creating the most staggeringly stunning costumes. Essentially, she’s a shoo-in for the Oscars and BAFTAs next year.

From the gorgeous 1940s-inspired gowns Cate Blanchett wears, to Cinders’ servant girl costumes and her beautiful ball gown, to Helena Bonham Carter’s fairy godmother get-up, to the stepsisters’ deliberately gaudy matching garb, the costume work is faultless. And I just loved the tasteless stepsisters’ wonderfully garish ball gowns – they looked like they’d eaten several tons of Quality Streets chocolates and then dressed themselves in the wrappers!

As for the worlds of Cinderella and the Prince, they’re beautifully detailed and rich, thanks to production designer Dante Ferretti. And cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, whose work you’ll have seen in Thor and Mamma Mia!, gives the film a magical sheen.

British director Kenneth Branagh’s take on the Cinderella story is an unashamedly sweet slice of cinema which focuses on the three c’s: courage, kindness and oodles of colour. Given the hyper-cynical era we live in, it’s kind of a bold move for Branagh to shine a nostalgic light on a character of such unalloyed goodness as Cinderella.

There are lots of lavish-looking crane shots that sweep up and over parts of the palace as well as the landscape. They do look great but start to feel a touch overused as the film progresses.

And if you’ve watched many Branagh films before, you’ll know that he loves a good circle shot, where he swirls around his actors, and Cinderella is no exception as you’ll see when Cinders and the Prince first meet. And it really does give their meet-cute a kind of appropriately dizzying quality.

Screenwriter Chris Weitz mainly sticks to the traditional tale we all know, making some nice nods to the original animation throughout. He does throw in a few noteworthy changes, too, including an early meet-cute between Cinderella and the Prince, which makes it feel as though the pair are on a more equal footing, despite the difference in their status.

Weitz also adds some nuance to Cate Blanchett’s wicked stepmother, and he answers our potential questions about why Cinders doesn’t just run away from her horrible stepfamily and why they don’t recognise her at the Ball. While I’m not a huge fan of the movie’s opening scenes, which take us through Cinderella’s childhood and last a little too long, they do fit with the dreamy, fantastical, magical feel of the whole film.

Extras: A Fairy Tale Comes To Life, Costume Test Fun, Staging The Ball, Alternative Opening: Ella’s Childhood, Ella’s Furry Friends, Frozen Fever (animated short).

Final Words: Cinderella is an incredibly colourful and charming confection that brings to life Disney’s classic animation by tipping its beautifully tailored hat to nostalgia.

Rating: 4 / 5      

Cinderella is available on Disney Blu-ray™ & DVD from 24 August 2015.