Blu-ray Review Cinderella

'Cinderella' Blu-ray Review: A timeless retelling of a fairy tale classic

September 16, 2015Ben MK

Too many films have sought to drastically reimagine and redefine our most beloved fairytale characters, so it's refreshing that Disney's new live-action retelling of Cinderella makes no such attempt. On the contrary, director Kenneth Branagh's version of the classic tale is as sweet and pure-of-heart as they come: a simple story about a kindhearted young woman, her dashing prince charming and the magical glass slipper that helped them to live happily ever after.

The story begins with a little girl named Ella, who has an innate connection to the animals that dwell on the grounds of her parents' home at the edge of the kingdom, as well as a fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to watch over her. But after the death of her mother (Hayley Atwell), and subsequently her father (Ben Chaplin), a grown-up Ella (Downton Abbey's Lily James) is left at the mercy of a cruel new family: the cold and calculating Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), and her two quarrelsome daughters, Anastasia and Drizella (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera). Renamed Cinderella and banished to the attic, Ella learns to find solace in being alone. That is, until the fateful day she ventures into the woods and has a fleeting encounter with the charismatic Prince Kit (Game of Thrones' Richard Madden).

All of this is merely the build-up, of course, to that pivotal moment in which Ella's fairy godmother makes herself known, turning an ordinary pumpkin into a gilded carriage, a goose into its driver, mice into horses, lizards into coachmen and Ella's tattered pink dress into a ravishing blue gown. Then comes the pièce de résistance: a pair of sparkling glass slippers, one of which will invariably lead Kit back to his love, once she has fled hurriedly from the palace at the stroke of midnight. In short, everything is more or less as you remember it. And aside from some minor fleshing out of the characters to bring them in line with modern sensibilities, there are no twists, turns or unnecessary embellishments to speak of.

Well-served by its lavishly ornate production design, colorful costumes and cartoonish CGI creatures, Cinderella feels exactly as a fairytale that's come to dazzling life should. But it's its fastidious attention to the beats of Disney's own 1950 animated classic that sets this version of the tale apart. That's because Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz aren't concerned with cleverly reworking the story's elements, but simply with crafting a timeless, live-action companion piece to Disney's nearly-seven-decade-old hand-drawn effort. And though moviegoers in the mood for something slightly edgier may be left wanting by its ultra-simplistic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, there's no denying that this is one Cinderella for whom the magic will last well beyond midnight.

Cinderella absolutely shines on Blu-ray, with a hi-def transfer that's completely flawless and utterly exquisite from start to finish, bringing out the ornate detail of the costumes and the sets, and highlighting the film's extremely colorful palette, overflowing with lush and vibrant hues like the blue of Ella's gown and the pink and yellow of her stepsisters' dresses. On the audio side, the movie's 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is equally magical, fully immersing viewers in the fairy tale soundstage, whether it's the sound of Ella singing, explosions of palace fireworks or the tolling of the bells as the clock strikes midnight.

Disney's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD and an iTunes digital copy, plus the following Blu-ray extras:

  • A Fairy Tale Comes To Life (9:23) - The filmmakers and the cast talk about what it took to bring this version of Cinderella to the big screen, touching on such topics as the different versions of the story, their favorite moments from the animated movie, and the iconic elements they sought to retain in this live-action adaptation.
  • Costume Test Fun (2:39) - Costume tests for Ella, her fairy godmother, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella, and various other characters, all set to music and intercut with clips from the film.
  • Staging The Ball (11:27) - A look at how the palace ball sequence was filmed, with special emphasis on the intricate set design, the lavish costumes, the hair and make-up, and the dancing.
  • Alternative Opening: Ella's Childhood (3:02) - Director Kenneth Branagh introduces this alternative opening to the movie, which features more of Ella as a young child, more of her interaction with her parents, and more of her furry mice and geese friends.
  • Ella's Furry Friends (3:43) - A piece about the real animals featured in the movie, and how they were trained.
  • Frozen Fever (7:56) - The animated short that preceded Cinderella in theaters, in which the cast of Frozen reprise their roles for a very eventful birthday celebration.

Cinderella is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of September 15th, 2015. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and English 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. Subtitles are presented in English SDH, French and Spanish. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 45 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 13th, 2015.

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