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Disney’s 2015 Cinderella is Actually a Great Movie with a Unique Message

April 20, 2015

Cinderella_2015_official_posterMy husband and I went to see the new Cinderella this past week.  We were actually on a little getaway weekend, leaving our son at “Gika” and “Papa’s” house, to enjoy a taste of freedom before our next little one comes this summer.  We went to a 9:30 showing, with no pressure to rush home to a babysitter, and it was glorious! (And then we slept in till 10am!!)

I was excited to see this movie, mainly because I love fairy tales and I was pleased with Disney’s reinterpretation of the Sleeping Beauty story with Maleficent.  But I was a little nervous that the movie would be cheesy, or otherwise over-politically correct.  Maleficent did err on the side of cliché political correctness.  And I’ll say that Cinderella erred on the side cliché cheesy romance.  But it must have done so in a way that was refreshing, because my husband’s first reaction after the credits rolled was “that was a good movie!”  I was a little cheesed out at that moment by the simplicity of the romance and plot resolution, but I liked the movie too.  As we discussed it, we realized that the reason we liked it in spite of the simple, childish plot and character development was that the whole movie was a celebration of virtue, perseverance and forgiveness, with no strings attached.

In both children’s and adult movies, how often is revenge masked as justice?   Take, for example, another live Cinderella adaption, Ever After, starring Drew Barrymore.  At the end, Ella is portrayed as being just for saying to the King, regarding her step-mother’s punishment, “All I ask, Your Majesty, is that you show her the same courtesy that she has bestowed upon me.”  This sweet-voiced sarcasm, and the step-mother and step-sister’s subsequent servitude in the castle, are enjoyable to watch.  But the Ella of Disney’s 2015 Cinderella simply says “I forgive you” before she steps out the door with the prince/king, even though no apology has been offered.  The narrator tells us the royal authorities punish Ella’s heartless step-family, but this is actual justice: punishment from a higher authority, not revenge from the person who was directly hurt.

The new Ella does show significant struggle to persevere in kindness and courage.  She also shows justified anger in a moving speech, just before her step mother locks her in the attic, asking “Why are you so cruel?”  But she also chooses joy in spite of her circumstances, singing in the attic, unaware of the fact that the royal company is below, testing the glass slipper on her step-sisters.  This reminded me of the famous account from the Bible of Paul and Silas singing in prison, after being arrested for preaching Jesus.  In discussing the movie, Matt and I realized that the new Ella shows more confidence and peace in heart-breaking circumstances than the original animated Disney Cinderella, who panics and cries in the attic (totally what I would be doing).  The character of this new Ella is a great role model for girls, not to mention anyone, really.

cinderella horsesRegarding the plot and character development: It is really simple- but it is a children’s story, is it not? The romance is basically love-at-first-sight, but they did have more intelligent conversation than the original animated Cinderella and prince did.  He shows an interest in her opinion, not merely her beauty.  Not every authentic romance has to begin with constant bickering, like the delightful story of Kristoff and Anna in Disney’s Frozen.  Finally, it seems too easy for the king and duke so simply to change their minds on the marriage requirements for the prince.  But, as Matt pointed out to me, think about what causes the king to change his mind: a personal encounter with Ella’s kindness.  A virtuous queen would be beneficial to the kingdom.

I will agree with the critics that this movie does nothing to correct Hollywood’s (especially Disney’s) portrayal of beauty as a small waist and womanly bosom.  But there is some other great stuff going on here: a clean, innocent children’s story that lavishly celebrates courage, kindness and forgiveness.  Three things our world desperately needs!  It does no good to constantly “cut our heroes down to size,” to use the wording of English professor and cultural critic Anthony Esolen in Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.  That is what a hero is: someone to look up to!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    April 20, 2015 2:18 am

    I couldn’t decide if I thought this was worth a date night or not. Maybe we’ll go see it if you guys both liked it!

    • April 20, 2015 5:20 pm

      I hope you like it! As I said it does err on the side of cliche romance which can feel cheesy, but we really appreciated the underlying themes.

  2. April 23, 2015 1:06 am

    Great review. I did one as well. Loved the movie!

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