Growing up in the 90s, Cinderella was definitely one of my favorite animated movies. Seriously, any Disney movie I was instantly head over heels for as a little girl. One of my favorite “games” to play was dress up with my mom. I had this little treasure chest full of costumes: crowns, dresses, purses, shoes, you name it. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was such a big sport about it too. I can’t remember a time she didn’t say “yes” when I begged her to play dress up with me. We even had princess-themed tea parties.

Needless to say, I had super high expectations for this film. Not only was it a live-action take on the classic Cinderella (the ULTIMATE princess of the Disney kingdom), but also it was coming on the coattails of the last big major animated turned live-action film Disney did. Yes, I’m talking about Alice in Wonderland. Though this was a completely different story, Disney did an amazing job of bringing the wacky and hilarious world of Alice in Wonderland to life on the screen. Directed by Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland really blew it out of the water with actors like Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway.

Now, let’s talk Cinderella. The first thing that really impressed me was how Lily James brought such a nuanced performance to the title character. She was not only a princess longing for a prince, but she was wounded, compassionate, gentle, and humble in the most genuine way. I was glad it was her and not someone else with more “star power” in the role. As for the directing, there are few people I admire more than Kenneth Branagh. Although he’s known primarily as an actor, the work he’s done with Shakespeare really had me rooting for him. And for such a romantic fantasy as Cinderella, he made the film truly magical.

Since Disney really challenged the princess stereotype with Anna and Elsa in Frozen, I was really curious to see how Cinderella would be received. My 4 year old niece who is the biggest Frozen advocate saw Cinderella, so I asked her what she thought and she told me, “I really liked her pretty dress and the ponies”. So I guess, even if the basic premise is a princess who falls desperately in love with a prince after meeting him once, at least the costumes and secondary characters can make up for it. Sort of.

My biggest issue with the film is that the idea of “have courage and be kind” which forms the central message of the film translates into Cinderella letting others walk all over her. Her stepmother and step sisters treat her terribly, verbally abuse her, poke fun at her, and constantly degrade her sense of being. Yet she tells herself to not to take action, not to do anything about it. This leaves Cinderella as a character without any sense of agency. So my biggest recommendation would have been to have her do something to fight back. Besides that, the film did a pretty good job of bringing this classic to the silver screen.

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