1. Will my kids like the movie?
If your kids enjoy fairy tales, yes, absolutely. If they don’t, then probably Cinderella will not hold their interest, since it’s pretty likely they already know how the story ends. Of course, there’s that animated short before the movie starts, that it’s just possible Disney added because they knew it would get kids to beg to see a movie they might otherwise disdain – kids tending to prefer animation to live-action, of course.
2. So, what about Frozen Fever?
I’m happy to report that Frozen Fever is not just a money-making ploy. That is to say, it most definitely is a money-making ploy – and there’s a new something that’s introduced in the short that is clearly tailor-made for toys to be based on (saying any more would constitute a spoiler). But it also has heart, and humor, and (of course) a song. It manages to work in all the major characters from Frozen (yes, all), and a few of the minor characters as well. It’s about as benign a cartoon as you could hope for, really, based around Elsa and Kristoff (and Olaf and Sven, of course) throwing a surprise birthday party for Anna. Of course, it doesn’t go as planned, and the ways in which it doesn’t are pretty entertaining – and I’ll say no more about the plot. I will only add that, seeing it as an adult, I found it difficult not to notice that the implications of Elsa’s magical powers get even more disturbing than they were before.
The only warning I would give parents about Frozen Fever is one that’s probably already occurred to you, but in case it hasn’t: It will almost certainly make your kids very, very anxious to see Frozen 2, and Disney has only just confirmed that it’s being made in the first place. Which is, I’m sure, part of Disney’s marketing plan.
3. Will I like it?
I think most adults who aren’t too jaded will enjoy it, and possibly more than their kids will. For example, you’re much more likely to recognize some of the actors and actresses. Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, plays the Prince (and no, the wedding music does not include “The Rains of Castamere”), and manages to give him some actual depth: he’s charming, of course, but he has a brain and truly loves his father, and falls in love with Cinderella for more reasons than that the plot demands it. The venerable stage and screen actor Derek Jacobi plays the ailing King, and does so as marvelously as you’d expect.
Lily James, best known as Rose on Downton Abbey, plays the title character and does so more credibly than many actresses could. She manages to be sweet and kind, but (mostly) not cloyingly so. She endures her father’s death, and her stepmother and stepsisters’ brutal treatment, without becoming just a victim. It’s a bit hard to tell if she falls for the Prince for real reasons or just because he’s probably the first man she’s ever had a conversation with who wasn’t her father, but that’s more a function of the overall plot than anything else.
Cate Blanchett (whom your children may recognize as Galadriel from the various Middle-earth movies) is brilliant as the stepmother. She inspires instant hatred, and revels in her cruelty to Cinderella, yet somehow manages to make you understand why she has become such a horrible person – not to forgive her, but to understand her. Helena Bonham Carter is a terrific choice for the Fairy Godmother – I’m not always a fan of her acting, but she plays crazy pretty well, and in this case plays a very funny and helpful kind of crazy. (Even if your kids have seen her as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films, they may not recognize her, as she looks very different.)
There are many other fine cast members, including Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) as Cinderella’s actual mother, Sophie McShera (Daisy on Downton Abbey) as Drisella, and the nearly-ubiquitous Stellan Skarsgård as the Grand Duke.
4. It’s rated PG. Anything I should be concerned about?
Nothing beyond what you’d expect. Cinderella’s parents die, and her stepmother and stepsisters cruelly mistreat her, but you knew that. The King also dies, late in the film (it is very obvious from his first appearance that this is going to happen, so I don’t think it constitutes a spoiler). It doesn’t have the more gruesome or terrifying bits of the story from the Brothers Grimm – I can assure you that nobody cuts off any body parts, and nobody’s eyes get pecked out by birds.
5. Do I need to sit through the credits for a bonus scene at the end?
No, although they do play a bit of music from the original Disney animated Cinderella over the credits, and that’s kind of fun.
6. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?
Since you and your kids are all probably pretty familiar with the plot going in, there’s little danger of being confused by missing something. However, I will say that you absolutely do not want to miss the Fairy Godmother’s scene (which, of course, happens right after the stepmother and stepsisters leave for the Royal Ball). Also probably best you don’t miss the scene where Cinderella and the Prince meet, which is after she leaves the house for a horseback ride.
7. Kenneth Branagh directed the movie. How’d he do?
It’s true Branagh hasn’t made a movie aimed at kids before this one, with the possible exception of Thor. He does really well, though, keeping the story moving at a pretty steady pace but allowing room for enough light moments to keep the dark parts from getting kids too down. It will surprise nobody who knows Branagh’s film that Patrick Doyle composed the music, and did a very nice job of it, too. The only thing anyone sings in the movie is the period-appropriate song “Lavender’s Blue,” a nice touch that I’d bet was Branagh’s idea.
8. Will I want to see it again?
If your kids are fans of Frozen, you may have a difficult time avoiding it. But I think you’ll find it worth seeing more than once – it avoids being boring in all the right ways, which is not an easy thing to do when everyone knows the whole plot of the movie before they sit down.
Disclosure: I received free tickets to a preview screening of Cinderella. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Images © Disney