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In 2010 after the box office success of the live action ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Disney announced a live-action adaptation of their version of CINDERELLA. I thought it was a terrible idea.
Sure, ALICE AND WONDERLAND had been fun, but did we really need a live action version of every Disney animated movie? What was next? BEAUTY AND BEAST? (Yes.)
Fast forward to March 2015, and we took our three girls to CINDERELLA. And something magical happened. Not only did our girls love it, my wife and I did too. I actually prefer it to the original, and I'm often extremely critical of remakes. My wife even has the phrase, "Have courage and be kind" on our wall, advice Ella's mom gives her daughter.
Why was this seemingly terrible idea a success? I think there are three reasons: the story, the actors and the magic.
First off, the story. They stayed true to the original Disney version but without remaining rigidly attached to it. For example, it's not a musical. Secondly, Cinderella's creature friends are an important, but they don't talk. The path was the same, but the scenery was different.
This story also doesn't work if you don't adore Cinderella. And while writing and directing are key, so's the performance. And Lily James is absolutely perfect as Cinderella. And so's everyone else. Cate Blanchett is always great, and Ben Chaplin and Haley Atwell bring her parents to life in a way that makes us really feel Ella's loneliness.
The casting I was most nervous about was Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. It's not that I don't like her, it's just I thought it was a bad fit. I was as wrong about that as I was about the entire idea.
The last part was the magic. I don't mean the magic system of the Fairy Godmother, I mean the magic of watching it all come together. In this movie in particular, you really needed the scene where Ella is transformed from poor girl into a woman fit to be princess, needed to be magical. And it was.
Since then, Disney has adapted THE JUNGLE BOOK and PETE'S DRAGON for modern audiences, and they are 4-for-4 (I'm ignoring the WONDERLAND sequel no one saw). And my feared reboot of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is coming.
I really thought Disney was going to ruin some classics. Instead, they've built excellent modern versions.
Many moviegoers lament all the remakes and reboots in Hollywood. But maybe a remake, in and of itself, is not a bad idea. Maybe all these ideas are neutral. Instead, the good or bad isn't in the idea, but in its execution.