“Cinderella” is for the baby birds, not the adults

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First Posted: 3/15/2015

I’m grateful that Cinderella is a fictional character because it means that none of us will ever have to spend any time with her. She seems sweet and appears to be a legitimately good person, but dear Christ-y God does she seem boring. Could you imagine just trying to hold a conversation with her?

“Have you watched “Better Call Saul” yet?” you may ask her. After smiling blankly at you for way too long she may reply, “I don’t know who this Saul person is. I’m sure he’s a good, noble man. But I do know that kindness and courage are the most important things in this domain.” Before you can tell her that you’re talking about a TV show and not a person, she cuts you off and starts talking about mice.


She tells you they have little hands just like a tiny little person. She gushes about how good they are at sewing and how Gus (who apparently is her favorite) loves to wear hats. She goes on and on like this for several minutes and doesn’t seem to notice or care that it’s annoying you to tears. Also, she still describes things as “da bomb” and says it way too much. Spending time with Cinderella the person would be a dull, regretful and faintly unpleasant experience. Sort of like sitting through “Cinderella” the movie.

Say whatever you want about “Oz: The Great and Powerful” or Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” (as long as it includes the words ‘lousy’ or ‘looks like “Lord of the Rings” if it was a particularly treacly Thomas Kinkade painting’) but at least those films were trying to take their all-too-familiar source material into a new direction.

Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” is the same Cinderella that you and even your youngest, most pre-natal children have seen many times before. There is nothing new here. This isn’t an adaptation of the original pre-white washed story. You don’t get to see the stepsisters cut their toes off in order to fit inside the golden slipper. This isn’t told from the perspective of the evil stepmother. There isn’t some “Battle of the Five Armies”-style subplot revolving around a private, but still very bloody war, between Lucifer the cat and the singing mice. There aren’t any surprises.

Watching “Cinderella” is like taking a walking tour of your own house while moving around on your knees. Because even though you’re well aware of the next thing that’s going to happen, you’re still forced to endure it in the slowest, most punishing way possible.

Still, the fact that “Cinderella” is predictable isn’t even the worst part about this movie. Just because this is a kids’ movie doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your cast of characters a personality. Cinderella’s (blandly underplayed by “Downton Abbey’s” Lily James) sole defining character trait is that she’s a pleasant doormat. The evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett wasted in a role that should have been far broader and campier) isn’t evil as much as she’s just passive aggressive. There aren’t any real performances in “Cinderella.”

Everybody is an overpriced puppeteer indifferently manipulating Sandy Powell’s ornate costumes.

Speaking of Sandy Powell’s ornate costumes, at least “Cinderella” is a pretty film to look at. Occasionally the sets take on the pastoral qualities of a Claude Monet painting while the costumes are more inventive than a movie this generic deserves. Special note goes to Blanchett’s wardrobe which mashes Edwardian formalism with ’40s femme-fatale. However, it’s not exactly an encouraging sign when the only thing you can take away from a movie is that the dresses are very, very pretty. Not that any of that matters, mind you. After all, the only reason this movie was probably made was because some executive at Disney noticed that plastic glass slippers weren’t selling all that well at the Bibbity, Bobbity Boutique at Magic Kingdom and needed to move most of the unsold units before the end of the financial year.

Your kids might like “Cinderella.” You definitely won’t.