Walt Disney Studios has fallen out of favor in recent years with many Christians and conservatives, largely because the company that once was nearly synonymous with wholesome, family entertainment has been caught up in the recent swell of moral "progress" and social experimentation. If Mickey Mouse had lived a natural lifespan, he'd be rolling over in his grave.
But in the brand-new, live-action "Cinderella," it appears Disney has made a movie that remembers its previous reputation.
The rags-to-princess story returns with all the familiar elements of the old fairy tale, captured in a visually lovely film, with moving music and a solid and believable performance from the lead actress. My 13-year-old daughter, who accompanied me on a little "daddy date," loved the movie, and I suspect most little princesses will also enjoy it.
The film was also made with an eye for families, with very little violence, no profanity and (outside of the cleavage common in the time-period dresses) virtually no sexuality. The film's only kiss, for example, is saved for a wedding day! Seriously, this is a film that could have been made in the 1950s, except with better special effects.
The movie's moral message, meanwhile, couldn't be more plain, especially as it's repeated nearly a dozen times in the dialogue: "Have courage and be kind."
Wholesome, pretty, enjoyable for young girls, with themes of courage, kindness, patience, humility and justice winning out in the end – "Cinderella" seems something out of Disney's past, and that's a good thing.
Unfortunately for adults, this "Cinderella" really does seem like something out of the past – as in, something you've already seen a dozen times. Outside of a creative portrayal of the fairy godmother by Helena Bonham Carter, there is nothing new added to the tale. This is exactly the story you already know, told almost exactly the way you would tell it, if you were reciting it at bedtime to your little girls.
I have to admit, I was a bit bored. This is just a straight fairy tale, without a wrinkle, without suspense, without even much humor to move it forward.
I'm grateful my daughter enjoyed it so much. I'm glad Disney returned to the classics. I'm thrilled other young ladies can see a princess tale with a heroine commendable for her virtues instead of her politically correct attributes – it just wasn't a movie really made for me as a 40-year-old man.
I do have another note of caution, which stems from the fact this is a column not about family-friendly films, but about worldview.
This version of "Cinderella," for all its commendable virtues, does not flow from a biblical perspective, but offers a moral tale out of a more humanistic persuasion, with a little Disney magic thrown in.
Case in point: At a key point in the set-up, Cinderella's birth mother asks her, "Who looks after us?"
Now, biblically that answer would be "God," but Cinderella answers, "Fairy godmothers."
It's a minor point, to be sure, but illustrative of the reality that the moral lessons of "Cinderella" are not seasoned with God's truth.
At another point, Cinderella is told, "This great secret will see you though all perils life has to offer: Have courage and be kind."
Courage and kindness are virtues, but to these great life questions Cinderella is asked, the answers she's getting clearly are not coming from the Westminster Catechism.
Nonetheless, some of the movie's secondary themes do present fantastic opportunities to reflect on biblical concepts. There's quite a bit in the film, for example, about how the names we're called and identify with have power to impact our decisions and lives, a truth revealed several times in Scripture, as when Jesus renamed Peter. There's a moment where an evil character argues nothing is given for free, which opens opportunities to talk about the gospel, and more.
In the net summary, "Cinderella" is faithful to families, to the classic tale and to Walt's legacy, and while children will love it, discerning parents may want to flesh out some of the philosophical nuances with their older and wiser children.
- "Cinderella," rated PG, contains neither obscenity nor profanity.
- The movie has virtually no sexuality, though the period dress means every female's cleavage is on display throughout the film. There is a kiss between married adults.
- The film has some physical scuffling between characters, a few pratfalls and a scene with the king's soldiers practicing fencing, but no significant violence. When the pumpkin is turned to a carriage and carriage reverted to pumpkin, there's some harrowing action and an explosion.
- The movie has no overt religious content, though there is a cat named "Lucifer" and a "fairy godmother" who performs magic.