Director Kenneth Branagh knows what Disney junkies, young and old, crave in their fairy tale movies, and he unabashedly delivers the goods with this, the latest “live action” remake of a Disney animated classic. Of course, any Cinderella movie would be a slog without a good actress playing the title character. Luckily, Branagh has scored a great one with Lily James (TV’s Downton Abbey), as charming an actress as any to ever play an iconic Disney role. Screenwriter Chris Weitz gives Cinderella a sweet and sad backstory, showing us a young girl (Eloise Webb) living a happy and secure life with her doting parents (Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell). As the fairy tale dictates, Cinderella loses her mom, paving the way for the Queen Bee of all stepmothers, played here by a spot-on, devilish Cate Blanchett. Blanchett and James are so good in their roles because they aren’t trying to break the mold. They both embrace their parts as if they know what we have come to expect, and the result is a sort of adorable nostalgia in the case of Cinderella. She’s a genuinely nice person you can root for as portrayed by James. Adding to the charm would be Helena Bonham Carter (Branagh’s ex-girlfriend) as Fairy Godmother. As to be expected, Carter plays it joyfully weird and quirky. When the pink gown transforms into that glorious blue dress adorning the spinning James, it’s pure movie magic. It’s a lot of fun seeing Branagh embracing the Disney canon and making it his own for nearly two hours.

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