The live-action modern re-imagination of the Disney classic stars Lily James as Cinderella, Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine, and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. (Walt Disney Pictures)

Perhaps the best-known fairy tale of all time has been given a lush, if lifeless, production in “Cinderella,” an opulent reimagining that spares nothing in the way of color, texture and rich visual value, but rarely manages to quicken its own pulse or that of the audience.

The solemn-looking Lily James plays the title character, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and his delicate wife. In a magical land similar to 19th-century Britain, she grows up talking to animals, charming her parents and striving to fulfill her devoted mother’s wishes that she display courage and, above all, be kind. “There is power in kindness,” the older woman says wisely. When tragedy befalls the family and her father remarries, the new blended family — including a style-conscious stepmother and her two vain and silly daughters — is enough to put even Cinderella’s most faultless virtues severely to the test.

Director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz clearly have tried to bring the old story into line with 21st century feminist values: Far from a passive victim waiting to be saved by the handsome prince, their Cinderella is a paragon of quiet integrity and insight. But the lovely and fundamentally uninteresting James is no match for the fire and elemental venom exuded by Cate Blanchett’s evil stepmother, who is by far the film’s most interesting character. With her chartreuse and green wardrobe, scarlet gash of a rictus grin and darting fits of cruelty, she seems to have beamed into “Cinderella” as if from a 1950s Douglas Sirk melodrama into a cozy Merchant Ivory period drama.

Branagh tries his best to infuse “Cinderella” with energy, from having his characters compulsively swirl and spin in otherwise static scenes to the palace intrigue and power plays that take the place of conventional romance. He even tries to inject some humor (yes, that’s Rob Brydon in a cameo role, and Helena Bonham Carter hiding behind a hideous pair of prosthetic teeth), but to no avail. For all its gossamer, gauze, filigree and refinement, “Cinderella” drags when it should skip as lightly as its title character when she’s late getting home from the ball.

PG. At area theaters. Contains mild thematic elements. 112 minutes.