Cinderella poster“Have courage, and be kind” and you might (spoiler alert!) live happily ever after. That’s the gist of this perfectly pleasant, Disney-meets-Downton adaptation of the fairy-tale classic, directed by Kenneth Branagh. I suppose if Hollywood can keep re-making Spiderman, then Cinderella might as well pop into the picture every couple of decades as well. Even if it’s not exactly necessary. For fans of the musical versions, be advised that this one has little more than the occasional bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. But what it lacks in music and drama (most people are familiar with the key plot points), it makes up for in message. That would be the aforementioned “have courage, and be kind.”

In this latest live-action incarnation, Lily James (aka ‘Lady Rose’ to Downton Abbey fans) plays Ella, a sweet gal whose perfect little family life is shattered when her mother dies. Her merchant father eventually re-marries, but then he too dies, leaving Ella in the clutches of her bitter step-mother (Cate Blanchett) and quirky step-sisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera). They basically relegate Ella to servant status in her own home. When she’s covered in ashes from sleeping by the fire, they spitefully rename her “Cinder-Ella”. (get it?)

Anyway, Ella finds solace on a trip into the woods where she encounters a charming young fella who, unbenknownst to Ella, happens to be a Prince (Richard Madden of Game of Thrones fame). Side note: How she could live in that particular kingdom her entire life and not recognize the guy is beyond me. But hey – it’s a fairytale.

The Prince holds a ball to survey prospective brides. Ella’s mean step-mother tries to prevent her from going. But then she gets a visit from a fairy godmother played by Helena Bonham Carter (looking attractive rather than crazy-goth for a change) and with a few flicks of the magic wand, Cinderella is on her way! A pumpkin turns into a golden chariot. Her dress is transformed into a stunning (and very low-cut) gown, and her feet are encased in a pair of Jimmy Choo-esque glass slippers with four-inch heels. One of them falls off as she bolts from the ball at the stroke of midnight. And you know the rest. All’s well that ends well.

Cinderella is rated PG. It makes for a fine family outing. Very little kids may not go for it, but most kids and adults will find it harmless entertainment. Have courage. And be kind. That’s what it’s all about.

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