And yet another remake greets our local cinemas. Disney is turning every single one of their animated features into live action productions. Tim Burton, for example, is apparently attached to the new version of… Dumbo . In any case, the latest retelling of Cinderella is, by all accounts, a surprisingly strong and well-made film. In the world of endlessly cynical and subversive retellings of classic stories, it apparently stands as a completely earnest and refreshingly faithful adaptation of this omnipresent folk tale. Which is what they’re for, one might add.
For this very occasion, Kenneth Branagh reunites with his close friend and collaborator Patrick Doyle to work on their eleventh film together. While the past decade in this composer’s career was full of experimentation with modern film music tropes and adapting to younger sound of Hollywood (Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Cinderella is an unabashedly throwback from start to finish. And a very, very welcome at that.
The score is graced not with one but two main themes. The first one is introduced early in ‘A Golden Childhood’. It’s one of those noble melodies that Patrick Doyle can conjure in an instant. No other composer working today can quite capture nobility and goodness in quite the same way as he does. The tune dominates the score for in its first portion and is developed extensively in piece such as ‘A New Family’. More dramatic statements can be heard in ‘Orphaned’.
As the score takes a dramatic turn in ‘The Stag’, the heraldic swashbuckling fanfares announce the hunting party. This is also the point when the second crucial theme is fully formed, as Prince and Cinderella meet face to face for the first time. Yes, it is the love theme in this score. The two melodies appear arm-to-arm from this point on and receive glorious fairy tale resolutions. Another secondary theme can be first heard in the opening cue. It’s a comedic and playful idea that Doyle later adapts into the dance setting during the ball portion of the story (‘La Polka Militaire’).
Of course, the supernatural elements are important ingredients in Cinderella and the composer rises to the occasion with his wondrous and exciting musical compositions to provide the magical element. ‘Fairy Godmother’ brings in the children chorus (New London Children’s Choir) which brings comfort to heartbroken main character. ‘Pumpkins and Mice’ accompanies the iconic transformation and it is scored with a delightful scherzo, which develops and becomes grander as the piece progresses. ‘You Shall Go’ brings all the anticipation and excitement for great ball, with the love’s theme receiving a grand sparkling royal statement.
As can be expected from this adaptation, a large chunk of the score is devoted to the dance scenes. And Patrick Doyle provides numerous source pieces to accompany those. One early examples are ‘Life and Laughter’ and ‘Rich Beyond Reason’. However, the most important section in this score would be the entire ball sequence. His themes are intertwined with the source pieces – the love theme is suggested in ‘Valse Royale’. All those dance pieces are very enjoyable, just as they did in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (also composed by Doyle). Both ‘Who Is She’ and ‘A Secret Garden’ serve as quiet interludes between those energetic tracks. In those, the relationship between Prince and Cinderella grows stronger. Towards the end of the latter, however, there is a change as the hour grows late. ‘Choose That One’ and ‘Pumpkin Pursuit’ are exciting action setpieces, in which Doyle goes back to his more old-fashioned roots of orchestral writing (not heard in quite some time). The performance of the London Symphony Orchestra are absolutely splendid in those segments.
The final chunk of the soundtrack album turns a bit sour at first (‘Shattered Dreams’) but soon turn exciting again the search for the mysterious girl commences (‘Searching the Kingdom’). The love theme receives yet another formal royal statement. ‘Ella and Kit’ brings some gentle soft development of main thematic material, while the ‘Courage and Kindness’ brings a grand resolution, and a happy end, to both main melodies. It's probably a very clichéd ending, of course, but that's exactly what makes it so endearing.
Several songs appear in the final portion of soundtrack album. ‘Strong’ was co-written by Doyle and it features the secondary theme (mentioned before) in its opening phrases. Unfortunately, soon it turns into another pop ballad and loses it's relation to the underscore. The following two tracks (‘A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ and ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’) are re-recordings of two famous pieces from the original Disney animated feature (sung by Lily James and Helena Bonham-Carter, respectively). As enjoyable as they might be, neither makes its way into the film and they only appear in the end credits roll. The digital version of the soundtrack album features instrumental versions of all three songs, for whatever reason.
The 78-minute soundtrack CD plays out very much like a Cinderella story in purely musical form. You don’t really need the film to know what’s happening - storytelling is clyster-clear, themes obvious and pronounced. There’s nothing remotely cynical or dark about it. As such, it is a delightful and highly enjoyable album that should satisfy any fan of traditional scoring. Patrick Doyle goes back to the style that made him respectable all across film music fandom and he's clearly not lost any of his touch. If you're more cynical, the score might not be for you. But everyone else: buy this one.
Cinderella is out now from Walt Disney Records