Sunday, September 13, 2015

Video review: "Cinderella"

Taking classic Disney cartoons and turning them into live-action picture is a recent and largely wasted effort. Most of the resulting films have been silly and swollen. (See – or rather, don’t – the two competing Snow White adaptations.)

“Cinderella” is the remarkable exception, a smart and heartwise movie with plenty of pluck.

Lily James plays the titular Ella, who is given the “Cinder” affixation by her nasty stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) because she sleeps by the sooty hearth for warmth. Ella’s days and nights are a ceaseless march of work and disdain, but she retains her sense of joy. Her wondrous childhood was taken from her, first by the death of her mother and then her father’s marriage to the harsh, vain Lady Tremaine and subsequent orphaning.

One of the film’s triumphs is treating its characters as complex human beings, so the “cruel stepmother,” ably played by Cate Blanchett, is a bundle of neuroses and bad karma rather than the personification of evil. The prince (Richard Madden) even gets something to do other than be handsome. Helena Bonham Carter, who we normally expect in the dark roles, shines as the fairy godmother.

The CGI is astounding without overshadowing the story, a gentle fable about how appearances can be deceiving. It’s a great-looking film that builds on the animated tale rather than simply regurgitating it.

“Cinderella” comes with a good variety of bonus features, though you’ll need to buy the blu-ray combo pack to get most of them.

The DVD comes with “Frozen Fever,” a new animated short starring Elsa and Anna, plus “Ella’s Furry Friends,” a featurette on the animal actors.

With the combo pack you add five deleted scenes, an alternate opening sequence and three more featurettes: “A Fairy Tale Comes to Life,” “Costume Test Fun” and “Staging the Ball.”



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