Movie reviews for this week

Cinderella ****
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water ****
Get Hard **

 

Does the world need another version of Cinderella (G)? No, but Kenneth Branagh’s take on the classic rags-to-riches fable is so charming that it feels churlish to complain. Lily James is radiant as Cinderella, a sweet-natured, ceaselessly smiling girl who takes to heart her doting father’s (Ben Chaplin) advice to ‘have courage and be kind’.

Her courage and kindness are tested when her father dies, and Cinderella is left to the less-than-tender mercies of her stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her adopted sisters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger).

It’s with the entrance of the malevolent Blanchett — she crackles with suppressed menace — that the story begins to come alive.

But there are few surprises here: apart from droll asides from the Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), as she grants Cinderella licence to go to the ball, and suitably bitter bickering among the Ugly Sisters, this version of Cinderella is far less subversive than recent animated versions of fairytales. Branagh has crafted a live-action remake of the Disney animated classic from 1950.

Unabashedly old-fashioned in its directness, the story makes full use of its fabulous settings — this is no Grimm tale of caution, but the stuff of pure fantasy, glittering glass slippers and all.

Taken on those terms, Cinderella should prove a delight for a younger audience, although older viewers might find it all excessively sugary-sweet.

A decade or so on from his silver screen debut, Spongebob Squarepants (voiced by Tom Kenny) is no older, nor — you won’t be surprised to learn — any wiser in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (G).

When dastardly pirate, Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), steals the secret formula that makes Spongebob’s crab patties the toast of the sea-floor town of Bikini Bottom, the loss quickly turns it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Determined to put things right, Spongebob and his friends — Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown) — set out to track Burger Beard down, aided and abetted by Spongebob’s implacable foe, Plankton (Mr Lawrence).

Stuffed to the gills with quips, puns and one-liners, visual gags and wacky asides, The Spongebob Movie is gloriously irreverent.

As always, it’s difficult to believe that Spongebob & Co are pitched primarily at children: the absurdist humour would do credit to the Monty Python team in peak form.

Not content with that, the writers and director (Paul Tibbitt) take every opportunity to divert the storyline away from anything remotely approaching convention or expectation, and do a very fine job of spoofing the current mania for superhero movies when Spongebob and his cohorts emerge from beneath the waves to confront Burger Beard on dry land.

All told, it’s tremendous fun, and here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another decade to see Spongebob back on the big screen.

Get Hard (16s) stars Will Ferrell as James King, a millionaire stockbroker who is convicted of fraud and sentenced to hard time in San Quentin.

With a month to put his affairs in order, and terrified by the prospect of the violence he will face on the inside, James commissions his car washer, Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), to toughen him up before he goes away. Directed by Etan Cohen (who is not to be confused with Ethan Coen), Get Hard is hit-and-miss — the promising prospect of a black comedy about inequality and radically different types of capitalism morphs into the clumsy ‘humour’ suggested by the crude innuendo of the title.

Darnell, for example, is an upstanding, law-abiding guy who is scraping together money to pay for his daughter’s education, but he has to pretend to be a stereotypical ghetto gangsta to persuade James that he can ‘get him hard’ for the prison yard.

Rather than focus on this and other potentially intriguing aspects, however, Cohen creates a story in which much of the emphasis is on amplifying stereotypes of race, culture and sexuality (James is horrified at the prospect of prison rape, a topic referred to every three minutes or so).

There are some laugh-out-loud moments, most of them courtesy of Ferrell’s patented dumb buffoon schtick, but for the most part Get Hard is monotonously dull.


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