Cinderella ★★★

When I discovered that I had enough Disney Movie Rewards points to snag Cinderella on Blu-ray, I splurged. There were always things I liked about the movie, but things that I didn't. I bet it's been close to a decade since I last watched this particular version of the fairy tale, though I did go into it with this year's live action version fresh on my mind.

I've heard over the years viewers who dislike Gus Gus. I'm a Gus Gus apologist. There's something about the guy that endears me to him. I think I like that he's a complete newcomer who so quickly offers his devotion and loyalty to Cinderella and her menagerie of friends. I dig that quality in a person.

That said, I did find myself thinking that the numerous mice versus Lucifer sequences were almost certainly prompted by the domination of the Tom & Jerry short films at the Academy Awards throughout the 1940's; from 1943-1946, and again in 1948, Best Short Subject (Cartoon) went to MGM's series. That must surely have stuck in the craw of either Walt Disney himself or at least some of his inner circle, who looked at their return to animated features as an opportunity to outdo their studio rivals.

So disproportionate are the cat/mouse sequences to the rest of the story that Cinderella herself goes missing for whole minutes - even during sequences in which we know she's just out of frame. Faring far worse is the unnamed Prince, who manages to actually say only a few words in the entire picture. Even his fixation on Cinderella post-ball is conveyed to us not by the Prince himself, but secondhand by the Grand Duke in expository dialog with the King. This Prince is nothing but a trophy husband, which has always rankled me anyway, but this time I finally realized what it is that really unnerves me about Cinderella.

I might not have even thought about it had not the Tom & Jerry dominance of the 40's crossed my mind, but as I scrutinized this film, I could not help but to interpret it as a postwar message to women that the time had come for them to ascend out of the workplace that World War II had welcomed them into, and bait them back into their domestic sphere dependent on a breadwinner man (any one will do, apparently, though the fantasy of tremendous upward mobility certainly didn't hurt).

On the other hand, though, of all the myriad possible ways in which Lady Tremaine and her egocentric daughters could have antagonized Cinderella, their default methods are to rub her face in domesticity.(Laundry is probably the most conspicuous, with food service and house cleaning vying for second). Perhaps in this respect, the film can be legitimately interpreted as a declaration that the exit from the domestic sphere was irreversible, and that postwar women were no longer going to do the laundry and keep house.

It's an interesting dichotomy, and I see evidence to support either interpretation. I'd be keen to entertain a debate on the matter, should anyone be invested enough to participate in one.

One last thought: It may or may not be heretical for me to say, but in my estimation, this year's live action incarnation is noticeably stronger in almost every respect save one: the music here is delightful, even outside "Bibbity Bobbity Boo". "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and "Is This Love?" are also both terrific, as is the instrumental score (though that admittedly plays up the pseudo Tom & Jerry aesthetic during the aforementioned cat & mouse sequences).

It will always be a problematic film for me, but in the final analysis, I find more to enjoy than to dislike so it remains on my approved list.

Cinderella Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#236/1680)

Cinderella < A Christmas Carol (2009) → #841
Cinderella > Failure to Launch → #841
Cinderella > The Mark of Zorro (1920) → #841
Cinderella > Idiocracy → #841
Cinderella > Oz, the Great and Powerful → #841
Cinderella < City Lights → #854
Cinderella > Dr. T & the Women → #854
Cinderella > Barbershop 2: Back in Business → #854
Cinderella > Bongwater → #854
Cinderella > Nacho Libre → #854
Cinderella < City Lights → #854

Cinderella was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #854/1680