The story of Cinderella has been told and re-told over and over again since it first appeared in the 17th century. So I’m not exactly sure why need another version– especially from Disney, whose 1950 animated version is such a well-regarded classic. Truth is, I suppose, that we don’t… but if we have to have one (because apparently Disney needs more money, has run out of ideas, or both), at least we get as charming, luminescent, and entertaining a version as the one director Kenneth Branagh (Thor) has given us.

Starring Downton Abbey’s radiant Lily James as the titular princess-to-be, Cinderella is more fun than it has any business being, and it’s the result of a fresh script (of an too-familiar story), stellar performances, and a vibrant, colorful palette that makes everything jump off the screen (though thankfully we’re spared the need to don 3D glasses).

There’s no sense in my re-hashing the plot–everything is essentially just how you remember it, down to the cat named Lucifer and the gaggle of helpful mice–but it’s refreshing to find that screenwriter Chris Weitz (About a Boy) took the tale-as-old-as-time and gave it just enough tweaks to keep it interesting.

Yes, you know exactly what’s going to happen, but strong work from James, along with Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother, drives the story along; Blanchett, in fact, is perhaps more perfectly cast than Angelina Jolie was as Maleficent. Another casting coup is Helena Bonham Carter, who steals the show in what amounts to nothing more than a cameo as the Fairy Godmother. (There’s even a cute little “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” moment.) Richard Madden as the Prince is one of the cast’s only weak points– but it’s not entirely his fault. Weitz didn’t give him a whole lot to work with; it’s a traditionally bland, no-win role, and that’s still the case here.

Cinderella has plenty for adults and kids alike to enjoy (kids, way more-so– including the all-new Frozen short that kicks everything off). I’m curious, though, if any other grown-up joins me in continuing to wonder how: A) no one else in the entire kingdom had the same-sized foot as Cinderella and B) how the glass slipper somehow held onto its magic when everything else changed back at midnight.

But hey– that’s how things work in old fairy tales, right?

4/5 stars