It wants to appeal to those who are able to push the negativity out of their heads and watch a story about true love.
Here's the thing, though: It doesn't matter. The movie doesn't care about any sort of cynicism you might throw its way. That's not the state of mind in which you need to be in order to enjoy it. For some people, that will be impossible - you are not Cinderella's target audience. It wants to appeal to those who are able to push the negativity out of their heads and watch a story about true love. It's magical and it doesn't have time to care about any of its problems. It hopes you won't, either. If you are the type of person who can easily get sucked in to a story like this, then you should see Cinderella.
Even for the cynical among us, there are still a few strong components for which you should be on the lookout. Any scene that involves a large amount of people, such as a brief fencing scene, or the glorious ball, are wonderful. The dance between Ella and the prince is expertly choreographed, beautifully shot, and the production design is exquisite. Cinderella is being directed by Kenneth Branagh, perhaps best known by cinephiles for his Shakespeare adaptations, but by the general public either for directing Thor or for playing Gilderoy Lockhart in the second Harry Potter movie. His strengths as a director primarily lie in the visuals. The best parts of Thor took place in Asgard because of the amount of effort put into the costumes and sets. The same is true here. In the dreary country home, the atmosphere is dull; it lights up when we move to the lavish castle.
Unfortunately, the gorgeous visuals only go so far. A lot of the CGI is subpar, particularly when it comes to the anthropomorphized animals. It's really difficult to get that right, and it's not a big deal, but it's noticeable enough that it has the potential to distract.
Outside of a touch of political intrigue - the king (Derek Jacobi) and the grand duke (Stellan Skarsgård) want the prince to marry for the advantage it brings the kingdom, while he wants to marry for love, so there's that dichotomy going on - the thing that the film most wants us to take from it is a big, important message. "Have courage and be kind" is repeated so many times that it would have become a parody in any movie with even an ounce of cynicism or self-awareness. But here it's how Ella lives, and it's at least a positive message for the children to take away from the film.
Is Cinderella a good movie? I don't know. It's got a lot of problems, such as a lack of content for its running time, a repetitive, heavy-handed message, lackluster CGI, and bland characters. But none of that matters. It wants to put you in a state of mind to get rid of all cynicism and negativity, root for Ella, and believe in true love. And, to an extent, it works. It also plays as a diametric opposition to the "darker" live-action Disney adaptations, and for that we should be glad. We need an earnest Cinderella for every cynical Maleficent; that balance is beneficial.
Bottom Line: Cinderella might have its problems, but if you can get on its wavelength, you'll have a good time.
Recommendation: If you're a massive fan of the Disney animated film, or if you're tired of the cynicism in today's movies, Cinderella is worthwhile.
If you want more of Matthew "Marter" Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.