"Once upon a time..." These irresistible words launch the latest re-working of a beloved fairy tale (there have been scores of versions). Even though this one is capably directed by Richard Branagh ("Thor"), I will succumb to temptation and mention some of my personal favorites.
- * Lily James ("Downton Abbey") is our eponymous heroine, a forced laborer stuck with household tasks when her father dies and leaves her at the mercy of his widow. (I like Drew Barrymore's version in "Ever After" because she lobs an apple at the prince's head when she thinks he's a thief.)
- * Helena Bonham Carter ("Les Misérables") hits all her marks asCinderella's Fairy Godmother, although she sees to her OWN needs first. (My favorite is the kleptomaniac from "The Glass Slipper." That beautiful ball gown was pilfered from someone's clothesline!)
- * Richard Madden ("Game of Thrones") meets Cinderella in the forest and our charming prince is reluctant to admit to this sweet maiden who he really is. (Nothing against this young man, but did you SEE Chris Pine in "Into the Woods?")
- * Derek Jacobi ("Last Tango in Halifax") is The King, not long for this world, but he wants his son safely married and the future of his kingdom insured before he goes.
- * Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine") is the evil stepmother. She actually out-evils a self-centered Jane Lynch in "Another Cinderella Story."
- * Stellan Skarsgård ("Hector and the Search for Happiness") The Duke has to be sure the prince will marry a princess, not a commoner!
- * Ben Chaplin ("World Without End") along with Hailey Atwell ("Agent Carter") are our poor orphan's parents, too soon gone. But they taught her to "be kind and have courage."
- * Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera have the thankless task of portraying the one-dimensional stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella.
Clearly the basic story is unchanged but the costumes are spectacular (particularly Cinderella's blue ball gown), and the CGI mice are darling (there is even a Gus Gus). This is rated PG, but I must mention that the headlong dash for home before that last stroke of midnight becomes pretty stressful.
There were numerous wannabe princesses in the theater, complete with blue dresses and bejeweled tiaras. I thought the five year olds were cute, but the 15 year olds looked pathetic!