A review of Kenneth Branagh’s film version of “Cinderella,” starring Cate Blanchett as a wonderfully wicked stepmother. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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If you suspected, upon hearing the casting of Kenneth Branagh’s new live-action “Cinderella,” that Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother just might steal the movie … well, no kidding. Making an entrance in a wildly swooping hat that’s arched only slightly higher than her eyebrows, and speaking in a voice that could rust porcelain, she sashays off with the movie in her wicked little hands; poor Cinderella (Lily James) doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, I spent a lot of time during the film wondering if some clever person in Hollywood might be plotting a movie that would feature Blanchett’s Stepmother, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent and Charlize Theron’s Queen Ravenna from “Snow White and the Huntsman,” maybe gathering to play a cranky hand of bridge or something. I’d put those three against any Marvel superhero trio, any day.

Aside from Blanchett, this “Cinderella” is sweeter than marzipan, pretty as a dressed-up kitten and only occasionally the littlest bit dull. James, known to many as Lady Rose on “Downton Abbey,” makes an earnest and charming Ella, who has rather bad luck with parents: Her beloved mother (who taught her to always “have courage and be kind”) died young, and her companionable father, after regrettably forming an alliance with Lady Tremaine, aka Stepmother, likewise departs this world. You know the rest: nasty stepsisters, a ball, a fairy godmother, a glass slipper and, eventually, after some foot-squeezing, happily-ever-after.

Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz take a little too long to get things going, and occasionally let the pace lag, but there’s always something gorgeous on screen — most notably Sandy Powell’s opulent, witty costumes, which are a colorful joy. (I especially liked the Stepmother’s trademark color — a faintly nausea-inducing acid green — and her daughters’ penchant for matching gowns seemingly created by colorblind dressmakers. And note how Cinderella’s blue ballgown sweetly echoes the beloved 1950s animated version.)

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Cinderella,’ with Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgard, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, from a screenplay by Chris Weitz. 105 minutes. Rated PG for mild thematic elements. Several theaters.

The casting is great fun, with Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera (another “Downton” alum) squabbling happily as the stepsisters and Helena Bonham Carter as a breezily befuddled Fairy Godmother. Cinderella and her Prince (Richard Madden) get a bit lost in all the flounces and flouncing, but they don’t seem to mind — you, and legions of tiara-clad little girls, quite possibly won’t either.