Movies, Books & Disney+

Film Review: Lily James Shines in “Cinderella”; “Frozen Fever” Falls a Little Short

One of the most anticipated films of the year opens today in theaters, as does one of the most anticipated film shorts. Disney first teased Cinderella in a trailer with just the glass slipper, which features heavily in the movie as it does in the animated version. And moviegoers will want to arrive early for Frozen Fever.

Playing before Cinderella, Frozen Fever has already created a buzz for the new Spring dresses and little Baymax-looking sneezeballs called Snowgies. In the story, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) are preparing a birthday celebration for Anna (Kristen Bell) – with the help of Olaf (Josh Gad), of course. Elsa discovers she has a cold (hence, the “Fever”), and she ends up sneezing adorable little bundles of Snowgies. While we don’t feel the short has the heart of a short film like Feast, it is cute and offers up laughs. I didn’t care at all for the song “Making Today a Perfect Day”, which plays throughout the short, and there were almost too many references to the original movie. The film feels more like a vehicle to sell dresses and plush – which is fine, I want a cute Snowgie too! And I like Elsa’s new dress better than the blue one. Kids will love Frozen Fever and many adults will too.

Mousesteps Grade: B.

Cinderella (There are some spoilers, but it follows a very similar story path to the animated version)

The live action telling of Cinderella is so earnest that it is hard not to be enthralled by it. It isn’t a perfect film, with Fairy Godmother Helena Bonham Carter’s cleavage so apparent that I couldn’t help but talk about it for days when discussing Cinderella. Who knew what lurked beneath the cape? Bibbidy Bobbidy Boobs!

The Fairy Godmother, as in the animated version, only lasts for a short time on the screen. The title character, Ella (eventually Cinderella), is played beautifully by actress Lily James (Downton Abbey). She is humble, earnest and the perfect Cinderella – delivering the anthem of the film, “Have courage and be kind” with a goodness that doesn’t seem fake. Ella loses her mother early on, and her father marries Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). Blanchett has a different vibe than the animated version – she cuts an elegant figure, but is no less a villain here. Blanchett plays the stepmother deliciously, savoring every nasty dig that she can give Cinderella – especially after Ella’s father dies.

While Blanchett is almost perfect in her role, I found the stepsisters – Drizella (Sophie McShera from Downtown Abbey) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) – a little more silly than villainous. I would have liked to see just a little more wickedness from them, a little more bite.

Ella does meet Prince Charming (Richard Madden) in the woods. He is thoughtful and has perfectly white teeth, and they quickly find themselves attracted. But Ella doesn’t want to tell who she is just yet.

Prince Charming is under pressure to marry, and his family wants him to find a princess. But he has other ideas, opening up invitations to the ball to all the eligible women of the land. He wants to find the lovely lady from the woods. His father, the King (Derek Jacobi) is not really thrilled with the Prince wanting to marry someone that isn’t a princess.

The Fairy Godmother arrives under wraps – so to speak – until she reveals who she is. The Fairy Godmother then turns Cinderella’s torn dress into a captivating blue confection, and sends Cinderella off to the ball in the carriage created from a pumpkin. The rest of course, is history – Cinderella eventually lands her prince, but there is a bumpy road still to go until they are united.

My one quibble with the ending is having every woman in the land try the glass slipper on until they find Cinderella. It works well in animation, but it was obvious that the palace knew who would fit the shoe – and yet Cinderella was in the very last home they visited. Maybe it would have been better if nobody in the traveling party knew Cinderella’s whereabouts.

I enjoyed Cinderella more than I did Frozen Fever, but the two together make for a delightful night out.

Mousesteps Grade for Cinderella: B+

Cinderella is directed by Kenneth Branagh and is rated PG.