So… my wife rented this last night and then fell asleep. So I continued watching it alone. I don’t usually do movie reviews, but since this is a fairly recent fantasy film that has gotten a lot of praise… and I mean a LOT, I thought I’d give my take on it.
I tend to shy away from remakes, which let’s face it, that’s what this is. When a studio makes a second version of a movie they’ve already made, its a remake, plain and simple. I don’t care if it’s a different style or medium, it’s a remake.
That being said, I’ve recently revised that policy after seeing Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent. When I first heard about this movie and listened to Jolie sing ‘Once Upon a Dream,’ I rolled my eyes. Maleficent is the best of the Disney villains and no way could Jolie do her credit. Having Jolie stand in for Eleanor Audley could NOT go well. I’m happy to say that I was 100% wrong. Jolie could not replace Audley’s dignified voice and performance, but she shouldn’t be expected to. This was a different take a on a time-honored character that told a story from her perspective. It was done incredibly well and I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, that I’ve added this movie to my collection. (Just cover your ears during the end credits).
Back on topic. So I spent last night watching this movie. What were my initial impressions? Well… it was a beautiful looking movie. The sets were breath-taking and clearly someone spent a lot of time on them, the outfits were beautiful and appropriate and the cast… I think that would be my biggest compliment to the movie. This was a cast where I didn’t recognize a single person. Making this a cast of fresh faces, which you don’t see much in Hollywood anymore. Usually there is at least one big name to give a movie some street cred.
The soundtrack was beautifully done, both the singing parts and the instrumentals. I especially liked the homages to the original animated film that were passively added in. Movies often try to make a big deal out of things like that to show it’s attachment. This movie seemed like it was trying really hard to keep itself separate… did it do that successfully? Well, we’ll get to that.
So with all that said, did I enjoy this movie? Actually, yes, but not as much as you might think. As I said, it was a beautiful looking movie with great costumes and scenery, but other than that… it really didn’t bring anything new to the table. For all it’s efforts, it really didn’t break away from the classic animated film . It did explain a few plot points, like what happened to Cinderella’s real family, and why she put up with everything from her step sisters, but other than that, there really weren’t any profound changes.
It really didn’t bring anything major to the table. The how and why of the villain really wasn’t explained and the evil step mother was played as just that, a straight villain. The movie had a real opportunity here to explain the Lady Tremane better, especially when Cinderella outright asked her, but that fell flat on it’s face.
The other thing that did kind of bug me is the ‘Love at first sight’ set up. Disney, amid much criticism, has tried to shy away from that type of theme. One has to wonder why so many of their movies that do successfully get away from it fail so badly, yet a movie like this that reinforces it does so well. It almost kind of seems like we as the audience need to be careful what we wish for. Perhaps that fantasy element to story-telling should remain intact? Or perhaps new strides need to be made on the story-telling side of things.
I really don’t know, I’m not a princess story or fairy tale writer, so I’m not qualified to speak to that.
My other criticism is that the step-sisters were extremely under-played. They’re supposed to be over the top and I grant you that they were snobbish and mean, but that was really it. In the original, they were downright abusive, not only of Cinderella, but also of each other to an almost comical point.
Another point that was extremely underplayed in this version compared to the original was the dress destruction. In this one, it was a few tears. In the original… I think the Cinema Snob said it best when he said that it was the closest thing Disney has gotten to a rape scene in its classic films. Now I’m usually against that type of thing in movies… especially kids movies, but in this case, the way Disney did it, yes it was violent, but it gave the movie an edge that made it stand out in the endless flow of animated films.
In this movie… as with so many other things that made the original what it was, was really underplayed.
Compare the two scenes:
Now ask yourself, which are you more likely to remember?
All right… so with all that said, here is my overall take on the movie…
This movie was a remake, not a re-imagining like with the a fore mentioned Maleficent. A very well-made remake, but a remake none-the-less. It really didn’t bring anything new to the table. There was no twist, no behind the scenes story to explain why certain things happened the way that they did, and no real twist on the original characters.
Other takes on Cinderella like Ever After and (to a lesser extent) Into the Woods did this rather nicely. They added new dynamics to the story and in the case of Ever After, they even had the Queen tell the Brother’s Grimm that they got it wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good movie and I highly recommend seeing it, the problem is that we’ve already seen this movie. Unfortunately it failed to break out of the shadow of the Disney Classic, which is really too bad given how much effort was clearly put into the film. Again, if you like the story, please DO see this movie. It is a beautiful remake that was surprisingly well done. You just need to curb your expectations in that you’re really not going to be seeing anything new.
Anyway, that’s my take on it. If you don’t agree, no problem. We are all entitled to opinions and I’m perfectly open to someone having a different view from mine.
(Even if you are completely wrong.) 🙂
Thanks friends, catch you on the flip-side!