Kenneth Branagh’s visually sumptuous adaptation of the fairytale romance Cinderella
Slavishly adapted from Disney’s classic 1950 animated musical, Kenneth Branagh’s live action version of the fairy-tale romance doesn’t skimp on the period detail.
Sandy Powell’s luxurious costumes, Dante Ferretti’s opulent set designs and Patrick Doyle’s sweeping orchestral score conjure a magical world of unerring love in which even we gasp at the gargantuan splendour of the grand ball where the prince must choose his wife.
While this Cinderella unquestionably dazzles the senses, screenwriter Chris Weitz is shackled to fond memories of the hand-drawn film and consequently, he has almost no room for flourishes of originality.
The plot arc is predetermined, the ugly stepsisters don’t hack off their heels or toes to squeeze into a misplaced glass slipper, and Helena Bonham Carter’s fairy godmother isn’t quite as eccentric as she or we would like as she engineers the film’s best set-piece with a flick of her wand.
“I don’t go transforming pumpkins for just anyone!” she chirps.
No, the special effects wizards do and they accomplish the pivotal sequence with aplomb.
Before all of the jiggery-pokery with a pumpkin, four mice and a goose, Ella (Lily James) is consigned to the kitchen by her vindictive stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and brattish stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera).
Emboldened by the dying words of her mother (Hayley Atwell) - “Have courage and be kind” - Ella tries to rise above the bullying.
When the name-calling becomes too frightful, she escapes on horseback and catches the eye of the dashing Prince (Richard Madden), who must pick a bride at the behest of the dying King (Derek Jacobi).
So the Prince throws a lavish ball where Ella makes her grand entrance then disappears as the clock chimes midnight, leaving behind footwear that would surely pose a health and safety risk in any other film.
“Find that girl - the forgetful one who loses her shoes!” decrees the Captain of the royal guard (Nonzo Anosie).
Cinderella will enchant a generation of girls, who dream of donning the tiara of a Disney princess.
James and Madden are an attractive screen pairing, while Blanchett draws inspiration from Joan Crawford to cast a formidable shadow from beneath the brim of her character’s extravagant hats.
“I do love a happy ending, don’t you?” gushes one of the characters.
Branagh’s film certainly does, without a hint of irony.
The main feature is preceded by the animated short Frozen Fever, which continues the adventures of sisters Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) as they prepare for a birthday celebration.
Loveable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and hunky Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) also return and the script includes a cute reference to the blockbusting film when ice queen Elsa sneezes and chirrups, “A cold never bothered me anyway!”
A generation of men, who take to their beds at the first sniffle, would disagree.
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (U)
In the pantheon of animated films about absorbent bathroom products dressed in pleasingly geometric undergarments, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie stands tall.
The 2004 feature film was a guilty pleasure, retaining all of the madcap charm and childish exuberance of the Nickelodeon cartoon series created by Stephen Hillenburg.
More than a decade later, SpongeBob and the residents of the underwater community of Bikini Bottom hit dry land in this deranged sequel, which splices colourful animation and live action.
Familiarity with the TV incarnation certainly helps because at its worst, Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel’s script is a psychedelic mess that defies reasoning.
For every trippy interlude, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water also delights with its unabashed exuberance and irreverence, cramming in all of the familiar characters plus a flock of seagulls to squawk the infectious theme tune: “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants! Absorbent and yellow and porous is he? SpongeBob SquarePants...”
Parents with a low threshold to boundless good cheer should prepare for a very long 93 minutes.
SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) flips burgers in a diner run by the irrepressible Eugene Krabs (Clancy Brown), where he is custodian of the secret recipe of the Krabby Patty.
Arch rival Plankton (Doug Lawrence) attempts to steal the list of ingredients, but the recipe vanishes into thin air.
In the absence of the famed Krabby Patty, Bikini Bottom teeters on the brink of apocalypse.
“The sandwich gods are angry at us,” screams scuba-diving squirrel Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence).
Everyone blames Plankton but SpongeBob knows he is innocent.
It transpires that a greedy pirate called Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) has stolen the recipe using a magical book, which allows the salty seadog to rewrite history.
Plankton joins forces with his computer wife Karen (Jill Talley) to create a time machine to erase Burger Beard’s meddling, but the plan fails.
Unable to restore balance from beneath the waves, SpongeBob, loyal starfish pal Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Mr Krabs, Sandy and curmudgeonly Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) venture on to dry land to defeat the pilfering pirate.
Burger Beard is armed to the teeth, so SpongeBob and co use the magical book to adopt superhero identities to defeat their nemesis.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water doesn’t quite match the pure entertainment of the first film but it comes close.
However, a protracted sequence involving a time-travelling dolphin called Bubbles (Matt Berry) is perhaps a hallucinogenic trip too far.
Banderas appears to be having a ball as the hirsute antagonist, who has always dreamed of running his own burger bar.
Vocal performances are as lively as the animation, accompanied by a jaunty soundtrack including one upbeat song with the lyrics: “It’s better when you and me equals we/Working together in harmony.”