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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Cinderella

September 15th, 2015

Cinderella - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
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Cinderella

Cinderella is the latest in a long line of Disney animated movies to be turned into a live-action film. I've previously reviewed a few of these movies, including Maleficent. I enjoyed that movie a lot more than most critics did. I loved the fact that the movie took the original characters, but told a different story than the original did. Does this film also do something new with the old story? If not, is it at least a good re-telling of the old story?

The Movie

We first meet Ella as an infant out with her mother and father. As the narrator says, Ella had a magical outlook on life. Later as a young girl, she believes in magic so much, that she can talk to the animals, a belief her mother encourages. Thanks to her father's wealth (he is a merchant) the family lived a very comfortable life, even though her father's travels means he's not around a lot. Their perfect life ends when Ella's mother becomes ill and dies.

Years later, the now grown Ella is told by her father about a friend who passed away. He was married with two kids and now Ella's father is interested in marrying his friend's widow. He's worried that Ella will be upset that he's trying to replace her mother. Instead, she's happy that he will have another chance at happiness. Unfortunately, that women is Lady Tremaine, who has two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella, and a cat named Lucifer. ... How did her father not realize she was a bad person? Yes I know the cat in the original Cinderella was also named Lucifer, but that movie started after the death of the father (spoiler alert: the dad dies) so we didn't have to suspend belief while the father fell in love.

Ella's father and Lady Tremaine get married, but he has to leave on one of his expeditions and he dies. Finally, we are caught up to the plot of Cinderella. The two films are nearly identical from this point out. The main difference is the Grand Duke is more of a secondary antagonist here, rather than being barely a character in the cartoon.

So we've answered the first question. Does this film also do something new with the old story? Nope. It's a very nearly scene-for-scene remake of the cartoon apart from the prologue and an early meeting between Cinderella and the Prince. Additionally, there are no updates to the film that were made to appeal more to a modern audience, which is a shame in my opinion, because it could use a modern touch in a number of places, starting with the titular Cinderella. She needed more of a more modern edge, because as it is, she has very little personality, beyond being very nice. This is also true of the original cartoon, but that film came out 65 years ago and almost all of the Disney princesses from that era had zero or nearly zero personality. It was also "just a cartoon", so the lack of personality wasn't as big of a deal. Kit also suffers from this problem and that hurts the romance between the two. There were only one of the main character in the movie that had any real character, Lady Tremaine, so at least the main villain has something going for it.

On the other hand... If you look at its reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, you can see the film earned 85% reviews and the Critics Consensus says, "Refreshingly traditional in a revisionist era, Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella proves Disney hasn't lost any of its old-fashioned magic." In my opinion, that's half right. Cinderella is traditional, way too traditional. ... But again, the film did earn 85% positive reviews and pulled in more than $200 million domestically, so obviously I'm in the minority here. If what you want is simply a re-telling of the 1950s classic cartoon, then this is a great film for you. If you were like me and hoping for a little more Maleficent, then you will be disappointed.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD are limited to just a four-minute featurette on the animals used in the film and the seven-minute short film, Frozen Fever. I will review the short with Walt Disney Animated Shorts Collection. I know that review is really late, but the screener arrived just last week. The Blu-ray has these two extras, plus a more general making of featurette, a featurette on the costumes, on the ball, and finally an alternate animated opening. That's not a lot of extras, especially for a film that pulled in $200 million domestically.

The technical presentation is what you would expect from a first-run release. The level of details is very high and the film has very vibrant colors. The shadows are deep, sometimes a little too deep and they swallow the details. Still, that's a minor problem overall. The audio is presented in the 7.1 surround sound track that is nearly as good as the video. The clarity is top-notch and there's more than enough activity in the surround sound speakers. There's not a lot of dynamics, but that's to be expected for a film like this. Dynamic effects tend to only come into play during big action scenes.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs $20, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is industry standard for this type of release.

The Verdict

Cinderella is a very faithful adaptation of the 1950s cartoon and most critics love it. Personally, I would have rather had a more modern adaptation like Maleficent was. The DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack don't have a lot of extras, but if you liked the movie, then it is worth picking up.

Filed under: Video Review, Cinderella, Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection, Cate Blanchett, Hayley Atwell, Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branagh, Ben Chaplin, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Lily James, Richard Madden, Sophie McShera, Eloise Webb