Cinderella, film review: Magnificent in parts, but Kenneth Branagh's magic begins to dissipate

(U) Kenneth Branagh, 105 mins Starring: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden
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The Independent Culture

Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella is, in parts, magnificent. Its brilliant use of colour, its lavishly detailed production and costume design, the swirling score from Patrick Doyle and the sheer verve of the storytelling can't help but impress, even if it is only a few weeks since the same story was told on screen in the Stephen Sondheim adaptation Into the Woods.

Interiors seem to be modelled on Watteau paintings and Haris Zambarloukos' cinematography gives the film the same eye-popping, iridescent quality as that found in some of the cinematographer Jack Cardiff's great movies.

Chris Weitz's screenplay updates the old Charles Perrault yarn in a fresh and witty way. The performances are very lively, too. Lily James is cheery and resilient as the long-suffering Ella, while Cate Blanchett, wearing a series of spectacular hats and gowns, makes a wonderfully glamorous, Marlene Dietrich-like Wicked Stepmother.

The absolute acme of the film is the inspired scene in which Helena Bonham Carter's scatty fairy godmother (or "Hairy Dogfather" as she styles herself) turns a pumpkin into a carriage and various lizards and assorted rodents into Ella's courtiers.

Sadly, from this point the magic begins to dissipate, as does Branagh's inventiveness. The sentimentality grows cloying and we begin to realise that we've seen umpteen other film and pantomime versions of the same story. It's a pity that a film that begins with such brio and originality ends on such a routine note.

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