First the good news. This lavishly produced British musical is gorgeous to behold, with elaborate costumes and grand locations and luminous photography. Simple effects are used to put across the supernatural elements of the iconic fable that provides the film’s storyline, and there’s a certain Masterpiece Theatre polish to the whole enterprise. Additionally, the supporting performances are solid, with reliable UK character actor Michael Hordern’s droll work as an uptight monarch worthy of special mention. Now the bad news. Gemma Craven is appealing but forgettable as Cinderella; Richard Chamberlain is miscast as Prince Charming (actually, “Prince Edward”) because the role demands greater dancing and singing abilities than he can muster; and the film’s original songs, by Disney stalwarts Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, are bland at best, insipid at worst.
Yet the worst fault of The Slipper and the Rose is bloat. The movie sprawls across 143 endless minutes, and more than an hour of nonsense transpires before Cinderella makes her legendary entrance to the Prince’s grand ballroom. Considering that nothing in the film elevates the characters above the usual one-dimensional archetypes, the only reasons for the picture’s absurd length are the songs, which don’t earn their keep. To be clear, there’s nothing outrageously bad about this take on the famous story, and it’s possible to imagine some viewers falling under the piece’s gentle spell. That said, nothing here truly excites the imagination.
Set in a mythical realm patterned after Europe circa the Romantic Era, the picture explores Prince Edward’s ambivalence about entering into an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, Cinderella endures indignities at the hands of her cruel stepmother and stepsister, until a fairy godmother intervenes to dress Cinderella in regal finery for a royal “bride-finding ball.” Though he’s expected to form a politically advantageous union, Prince Edward falls for mysterious stranger Cinderella, then uses the shoe that she accidentally leaves behind to track her down. You know the drill. The filmmakers, including executive producer David Frost (of TV-hosting fame) and director Bryan Forbes, demonstrate some resourcefulness—as in the scene of dancers in mice costumes pirouetting across the screen—and the gag about the king proposing a tax on snobbery approaches wit. Still, it’s all just glossy, nonthreatening pap, and the only lasting image is the questionable sight of Chamberlain’s character doing gymnastics in the royal family crypt during a musical number.
The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella: FUNKY