"Cinderella"

Lily James stars in the live-action version of Disney’s “Cinderella,” now playing in area theaters.

Holy crap, those were some tight pants.

Of all the impressions “Cinderella” might have left on me, Richard Madden’s distractingly tight pants were near the top.

Madden (otherwise known as Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones”) plays the illustrious prince opposite Lily James’ Ella.

While James (“Downton Abbey”) seemed perfectly fine as the put-upon orphan, Madden just didn’t fit the bill for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I never liked Robb Stark very much, but I was convinced Madden wouldn’t work.

I was wrong. As Kit, he proved perfectly charming, no pun intended. It might have been his vibrant, crazy bright blue eyes or the easy smile he flashed at his lady love and friends.

Honestly, though, I don’t think it was anything so superficial. “Cinderella” is incredibly smart and kind of amazing.

It has long been a pet peeve of mine that many Disney movies center their romantic story lines and happily ever after endings around a couple that has spent a grand total of five minutes together. Kit and Ella have a chance meeting, but that’s only what whets their appetite. They have attraction but they don’t really fall in love until they’ve gotten to know each other.

How crazy is that?

I watched Disney’s animated version more times than I can count — and director Kenneth Branagh and writer Christopher Weitz have been extremely faithful to that classic. It’s a classic tale that we all have heard at some point in our lives, but while the story has always been geared at children, this film felt decidedly adult at times.

It’s not just that the title character loses both her parents, although I struggle to remember a recent presentation where the audience is allowed to spend so much time with Ella’s mother or father, and the sense of loss and suffering is identifiable. Even if their story lines aren’t lengthy, Ella’s parents (Ben Chaplain and Hayley Atlwell) leave a lasting impression both on their daughter and the audience.

Then there’s the wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Oy.

With 2014’s “Maleficent,” Disney showed off their casting chops as Angelina Jolie brilliantly portrayed the title character. Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s wicked stepmother proves lightning does strike twice.

When it comes to tough roles to cast, the villain is always harder, in my opinion. Cinderella isn’t exactly a tough role to portray. She must be pretty and seemingly demure. Considering the film’s never-ending motto is “Have courage and be kind,” you need someone pretty that believably plays a gentle soul. I have nothing against James, who is a perfectly delightful heroine, but Cinderella doesn’t have a great amount of depth or substance. The character is a bit vanilla when a spoonful of rocky road would really make things kind of interesting.

The wicked stepmother, though, well, that’s where the meat of the story lies. Lady Tremaine is a vile and horrible human being. She’s fueled by greed, hate and jealousy. She treats Cinderella with disdain and humiliates the girl verbally and physically. An animated stepmother is bad enough, but Blanchett relishes this role. With each evil deed, her eyes flash and her red, red lips stretch into the evilest of smiles. Blanchett is the perfect physical embodiment of a character we have grown up loving to hate.

At her side are her overly obnoxious daughters, Anastasia and Drisella (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera, another “Downton” alum). They are everything wicked stepsisters should be.

Speaking of flamboyant, Helena Bonham Carter takes the stage as Ella’s fairy godmother. Carter is perfectly cast as the effervescent fairy. She even manages to work in a “bippidi boppidi boo.”

The cast is rounded out by Stellan Skarsgård as the smarmy grand duke, Nonso Anozie as Kit’s captain of the guard and Derek Jacobi as the king. All three add depth to the prince rather than simply letting him be a flat character whose sole purpose is to be the “love interest.” It’s a wise decision that helps this one stand out from previous versions.

However, like I said before, this version of “Cinderella” is strikingingly similar in many ways to the beloved animated 1950 film. Many of our favorite characters have been brought to life including the mice — GusGus included — and even Lucifer, the family cat. The animals — who don’t speak, by the way — become coachmen and a pumpkin becomes a carriage. Nice inclusions for those of us who have grown up with this version, because it’s a film that you embrace and fall in love with, even boys.

“Cinderella” offers a delightful take on the tale. It’s sweet and whimsical and nurtures the little girl inside of me that always dreamed of glass slippers and Prince Charming — in tight pants.

Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times. Contact her at amanda.greever@thedailytimes.com, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.

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