Rating: PG, for mild thematic elements.
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: A sweet young woman, tortured and abused by her evil stepmother and stepsisters, enjoys an enchanted (but brief) evening with a handsome prince, only to scurry off mysteriously at midnight. Director Kenneth Branagh tells this classic fairy tale in rather straightforward, live-action fashion — there’s no self-referential irony, no transformation of Cinderella (Lily James) into a sword-wielding warrior princess — but his film is lively and visually sumptuous. Cate Blanchett is formidable as Cinderella’s stepmother but there’s an actual explanation for the origin of her cruelty. Parents die, as is always the case in such stories, so there are a few heavy, emotional moments. Mainly, though, this is a solid way to introduce kids to this enduring story. My 5-year-old son insisted he thought it was “boring,” but the little girl we brought with us to the screening absolutely loved it. I recommend it highly for all ages.