Nonso Anozie (left).Richard Madden (right)
Once upon a time, there was a movie with the perfect pairing of chemistry and charm.
A princess tale, which draws from a well-known animated classic story of an ill-treated heroine whose dreams come true, “Cinderella” builds on the nostalgia and memories cherished by millions.
“It’s a classic fantasy story,” says Afro-British actor Nonso Anozie (“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”) who has a noble role as the captain, the prince’s adviser and best friend. “A girl that really doesn’t have a lot, but because she doesn’t expect so much, maybe she is destined to have the world. That is a fantasy that a lot of people will relate to - the fantasy of being able to meet your prince charming and have the fairy tale ending.”
This 21st century live action update first delves into Cinderella’s childhood and introduces audiences to a bright and bubbly little girl named Ella (Lily James) who shares a picturesque life with her loving parents (Hayley Atwell, Ben Chaplin). Kind to everyone, including all the animals (rats, mice, lizards and geese), Ella oozes with genuine goodness and has this wide-eyed kindness and generosity, which pushes us to care about her fate. She adores her parents who equally dote on her. All is initially well and life seems idyllic, but things soon take a twisted turn when her merchant father (Ben Chaplin) remarries following the tragic death of her mother.
Eager to support her father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchet) and her snobbish daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera), into the family home. But when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. She is soon relegated to the attic, spitefully renamed Cinderella and forced to become their servant.
While wandering around in the woods one day, she briefly encounters a stranger who she is unaware is a Prince (Richard Madden). The Kingdom’s most eligible bachelor is equally thrilled to find a young lady who doesn’t recognize him as the heir to the throne. It is love at first sight for the duo during this brief encounter.
Not knowing her name or she is, the prince wants to find the mysterious girl he met in the forest and summons all maidens in the kingdom to attend a royal ball at the palace. Cinderella’s stepmother sees this as the best opportunity to escape misfortune and mistakenly believes one of her daughters could actually win his heart. She forbids Cinderella to attend and callously destroys her dress. The fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) appears and armed with a pumpkin, a few mice and a magic wand, changes Cinderella’s life forever.
"The same way that Cinderella has the fairy God mother, the prince has the captain," Anozie continues. "The captain is definitely someone who is a bit of a role model who is rooting for the prince to get what he wants in life."
There are no fresh or new territories explored, nor shocking ending, twists and turns for “Cinderella” follows a pretty standard formula – boy meets girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after. What makes the film such a delight is its ability to make you smile. You will laugh at the many humorous scenes such as the town’s maidens trying on the glass slipper for a shot at Prince Charming’s hand in marriage or Cate Blanchet’s cynicism and dialogue as the stepmother and Cinderella’s ill-mannered stepsisters and their peculiarities. You will marvel at the set designs, the elaborate costumes and the visual effects, especially the scenes when the beautiful gold carriage and the four white horses turn back into a pumpkin and a bunch of mice at the stroke of midnight. It’s a sequence that’s so visually dazzling it can easily lay claim to being the best animated sequence of the year so far.
Most fairy tales are told in animated form, which hinders the audiences from being able to truly relate or bond with any of the characters, but with this “Cinderella” the effect is immediate and palpable. A film of considerable charm, the story is well paced and the characters aptly cast. This one remains surprisingly faithful to the original while still being relevant to modern audiences.
Director Kenneth Branagh delivers an entertaining film and brings as much fun and humanity to the fairy-tale characters as possible, while preserving the unforgettable elements from the animated classic.
“Cinderella” opens in U.S. theaters March 13