2015-03-13

Cinderella – The Power of an Old Fashioned Fairy Tale

by Yo Snyder

I had a lot of trepidation in seeing the new Cinderella. For one thing, it’s always a
bit dicey to do a remake of any truly classic film. Of greater concern,
however, was how Disney has handled the whole concept of fairy tales in recent
movies. Frozen played with classic
fairy tale tropes in surprising ways, which admittedly made for a fun movie.
However, Maleficent boldly subverted
many of the classic fairy tale tropes by suggesting fairy tales had gotten concepts
such as good and evil wrong; perhaps there are no such thing as absolutes, just
misunderstandings of where certain characters are coming from. Then there was Into the Woods, which didn’t just
subvert fairy tales, but out and out desecrated them. So when I heard there was
a modern, live-action remake of Cinderella
coming, I couldn’t help but shudder at what sort of “modernization” one of
Disney’s most beloved classics might undergo. Much to my relief and delight, Cinderella turned out to be more of an
affirmation of classic fairy tales rather than a re-envisioning of them, and I
think that’s why it’s also one of Disney’s very best films in recent years.

You won’t find any “updates” or “modern revisions” here, but
you will find purity and goodness and heart and optimism and love, and all the
wonderful things that make fairy tales so endearing, enriching and encouraging.
There’s none of the relativistic, morally ambiguous re-imaginings here, but the
simple absolutes that love, forgiveness and kindness are powerful and enduring
while cruelty, selfishness and evil lead to nothing but misery and destruction.
Cinderella brings back fairy tales
that believe in happy endings and true love, and while those may seem like old
fashioned ideals, as Agent Coulson once said to Captain America, “Maybe what
the world needs a little more old fashioned.” Something don’t need to be modernized
or reimagined, some things are just timeless; such as the ideals often found in
classic fairy tales such as Cinderella.

Cinderella not
only restored my faith in Disney’s ability to tell a classic fairy tale without
the need of a “modern update”, it also convinced that perhaps remakes aren’t
always such a bad idea after all. This version perfectly captures the spirit
and magic of the animated classic while telling its own version of that
familiar story. It pays homage without imitating, and it fleshes out the story
(pun intended, since this is, after all, live-action) in interesting ways while
keeping the familiar core intact. It’s an incredibly difficult balance to
maintain, yet Kenneth Branagh makes it look effortless. From mice friends to
“bippity-boppity-boo”, all of the elements one would hope to find are here,
often different and yet comfortably familiar. Indeed, the only thing I could
fault this movie with was the lack of my favorite song during the Prince’s
dance with Cinderella, “So this is Love”. (On the plus side, we do get a lovely
rendition of “Bippity-Boppity-Boo” during the credits.) Somehow this version of
Cinderella feels both more “grounded”
than the original but just as magical, which makes for a delightful movie-going
experience that was once a unique hallmark of Disney films (and apparently,
still can be).

I was also pleased to see so many encouraging and positive
messages shared over the course of this movie; chief among them being the
importance and power of kindness. We live in a hard, harsh world, which makes
it easy at times to overlook kindness or to view it as weak and ineffectual.
However, Cinderella is right to highlight
the power of kindness. It’s funny, but kindness isn’t something always
associated with God, and yet the Bible clearly says it’s his kindness that
leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It was his kindness that led his only son
Jesus to the cross, and death, and to resurrection. Strange to say, perhaps,
but wouldn’t you say that it was a kindness to us to not make us suffer such a
thing, to have someone else pay for that which we could never pay on our own,
to suffer the consequences we so rightly deserve? Yes, kindness is powerful. It
was powerful enough to overcome sin and death, and its power can bring change,
even eternal change.

Ironically, I’ve heard some bemoaning Cinderella’s return to
outdated views and old fashioned ideals. They don’t like the fact that
Cinderella is so sweet and kind to the point of not having any “backbone” and
instead is just waiting for someone to save her. I’m thinking they didn’t see
the same movie I did, for this film emphasized that it takes courage to be kind
the face of cruelty. It takes strength and character to determine to do good
even when there is no hope of reward or even a return of goodness. In fact, don’t
we praise Martin Luther King Jr. for holding to the same ideals, of not
returning cruelty and violence with more cruelty and violence? Isn’t that what
some people even laud Jesus for? So how is the fact that Cinderella chooses to
be kind, to believe in goodness, to continue to hope something that makes her
weak? It seems to me she’s anything but weak and passive, and she accomplishes something
most people aren’t even willing to attempt. It’s a powerful message of
empowerment not just for girls, but for us all.

While it does carry some very powerful and uplifting
messages in it, Cinderella never forgets
to have fun. Humor and heart are perfectly balanced, and even the cruel
stepmother is given some humanity and reasons for us to feel sorry for her.
Cate Blanchet is absolutely brilliant in her role, bringing just the right
touch of heartlessness and that subtle shadow of pain that shows she never
really meant to end up this way. In truth, the entire cast does a fantastic
job, and that mixed with sumptuous costumes and a beautifully realized word
that draws us into the land of fairy tales creates an end product that would
make Walt Disney himself very proud.

Score: 7 of 7 – Cinderella is a delightful film the
entire family can enjoy, but more importantly, it’s one that boldly proclaims
that the ideals of goodness, kindness and purity aren’t that outdated after
all, nor are they weak or ineffectual. They are, in fact, quite powerful,
something that often gets lost when fairy tales are so often “modernized” or “updated”.