Cinderella: How to Make a Nice, Simple Modern Fairytale

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How much can I say about Disney’s newest live-action movie Cinderella? I liked it. I really did.

For me, it captured the basic heart and spirit of the original animated classic while still being its own distinct version. It conveyed a message of courage and kindness, strength and hope in the face of cruelty and adversity, and hey, it even poked fun at itself and had a few cute, “self-aware” moments, thankfully none of which felt forced.

When I heard this was being made, I thought we might see a movie from the stepmother’s point of view, a la Maleficent, but that may or may not have worked too well. The more I watch Maleficent, the less I grow to like it; particularly because the narrator urges you to regard this story as the “true version,” rather than just one of many interesting, diverse interpretations. It comes across as irreverent and somewhat arrogant.

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I worried initially that all of this Disney retreading was them hoping to pacify the mobs of naysayers, and thereby scrub their classics clean of just about anything that might offend modern audiences. But such does not seem the case with Cinderella.

Let’s face facts: everyone and their mother has tried to tell this story. Several have tried to put their own spin on it; to make their films unique, or in many cases, more palatable. Often today, people feel they have to do a feminist, modern retelling that fixes all of the problems they had with the original story; particularly the passivity of Cinderella as a character.

 

That’s admirable; there is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical. The source material is flawed; it was written long before modern-day, and the animated film came out in the 1950’s. Wanting to poke fun or make a better movie is fine, so long as you don’t give in to genuine bitterness and cynicism.
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I maintain that Cinderella is not trying to make little girls passive, man-obsessed, or gluttons for punishment. It’s a Christian story at heart; where, if you put up with life’s difficult challenges with patience and perseverance, and stay a good person through it all, you will ultimately be rewarded in the end. Whether you think that really can happen or not is up to you, but we all have moments where we wish we had been kinder, stronger, and more patient with people. It might not hurt to encourage kids to be positive, and to kill their haters with kindness.

Ultimately, people will see what they want to see. And if you want to see a more active Cinderella, kindly check out my review of Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time. 

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Cate Blanchett makes for a fun Lady Tremaine; enough like the original, but with her own quirks. She has an interesting laugh all her own. The step sisters are straight from the animated movie, but with a bit more brain damage. As you would expect, the prince has a ton of more presence (and a sort of name!), and his father is less crazy than the original king, but lovable and supportive to his son.

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Helena Bonham Carter plays herself as the fairy godmother. It’s cute, if a little random; she might be a fairy in training or just slightly incompetent. Either way, we never know. The jokes hit their mark pretty well; they’re all situational and timeless, so the best do well and the worst, at the very least, aren’t too distracting.

If I did have one nitpick, it would be that the stepmother and step sisters don’t get much depth. They have a moment where the stepmother almost tells us why she is the way she is, but that is cast aside for a funny little self-aware moment, as I mentioned above. Evil will always triumph because good is dumb. Also, good is ew.

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It would be nice if in one of these retellings, the step family was misunderstood or at least had a few redeeming moments. But then again, their evil must be great enough to be counteracted and triumphed over by Cinderella’s good.

The animated Disney film will always be special to me because it is a beautiful, stylized version with hilarious side characters and the voice of Maleficent playing the stepmother. But I was pleasantly surprised by how cute, funny, beautiful, and just downright charming the live-action film could be. It’s definitely worth a viewing.

No fancy tricks to retool the story, no “hey, maybe the stepmother was actually a nice lady after all, just misunderstood,” no condescending narrator hailing this film as the end-all be-all of Cinderella stories. Just a straightforward retelling that strives to make Cindy just a little less bland, but no less good at heart.

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7/10

*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners. None of the images or sounds belong to me.

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