This Friday (March 13), audiences nationwide will fall in love with "Cinderella"... again. For the umpteenth time.
However, we're here to tell you that the Kenneth Branagh directed, Lily James-starrer is -- while entirely familiar -- a perfectly magical, extremely enjoyable retelling of the Cinderella story, and one that any adult (even a childless one!) should feel perfectly happy about seeing.
The chemistry between the two leads is enchanting.
The singular most important element in a love story is chemistry between the two leads, so thank your Fairy Godmother that James and Richard Madden have chemistry from the get-go. Many fairy tales turn their female leads into damsels and their princes into bland archetypes with no personality, but "Cinderella" lets James' strong will define her, and Madden's Prince Kit is actually worthy of the Charming moniker.
Also, by having them meet before the big ball, we actually believe that these two characters are falling in love with each other's personalities, instead of just a "love at first sight" via awesome ball gown situation.
Cate Blanchett makes evil look good.
The glamorous, physically imposing Blanchett earns every cent of the probably astronomical paycheck she received for "Cinderella." The well-decorated actress completely dominates every scene she's in, which works perfectly for this material. You can easily see why Cindy bows to her every command, and by the end of the film, MTV News was simultaneously dreading her arrival and eager for her to show up -- the telltale sign of a great villain.
The costumes and set design are pure fairy tale magic.
Sandy Powell's hypnotic blue ball gown has already become iconic, and that's just from the previews. Thankfully, the rest of the film's design is just as enchanting, with Prince Kit's small but idyllic cliffside kingdom serving as the perfect setting for a magical romance. Basically, expect to see "Cinderella" on the shortlist for some costume and production design costumes next year.
Sure, most of "Cinderella"'s leads are as white as snow, but they hired several supporting actors of color -- and not just to play members of the servant class. And that's a step in the right direction, for sure.
Its supporting cast is wicked fun.
Helena Bonham Carter as a whimsical, glamorous Fairy Godmother who acknowledges the ridiculousness of glass footware? Check. Marvel standout Hayley Atwell as Cinderella's impossibly perfect mother? Double check. Stellan Skarsgård as a villainous duke, complete with twisty evil mustache? Check, check check.
Madden and James are great, but they're certainly not A-listers -- so Branagh made a wise decision when he cast a gaggle of big-screen greats (and Atwell, who will be there soon enough) to bring dollars to the box office.
They really go for it with the whole animal thing.
To its credit, Cinderella approaches some of the campier, more magical elements of the fairy tale wholeheartedly. (Unlike the 1998 Drew Barrymore version "Ever After," which we loved just as much.) There's no tongue-in-cheek to be found, which is particularly noticeable with these magical elements -- mainly, with Cinderella's animal friends. They talk to her (just not in English) and are severely anthropomorphized, but nothing stands out quite so much as when Fairy Godmother turns a lizard into a lizard-man, and the actor just full on goes. For. It. You'll know him when you see him. He's my actual hero.
It's guilt-free fun.
All of the above basically translates into this one simple point: "Cinderella" is pure, guilt-free fun. You can get lost in its physical beauty, its sweet-yet-dated views on romance, its magic, and most of all its characters without a trace of pessimism or shame.
Sure, you probably realize as a full-grown adult that you shouldn't rely on a handsome prince to whisk you away, but without any of the cringe-worthy, anti-feminist elements that have peppered the Cinderella stories of years past, there's no good reason not to love "Cinderella."