[Movie Review] Disney Has Wicked Fun With 'Maleficent'
Angelina Jolie is wickedly good as the iconic title character in Disney’s new re-imagining of the classic Sleepy Beauty fairy tale, this time told from the point of view of the horned and angry mistress of mean in Maleficent.
The overall look of the movie is great, with numerous visual nods to the 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty thrown in for the old school purists. But this is “an old tale told anew” is the narrator informs us early on, and while we do eventually get the classic story we all know and recognize, it’s what happened to Maleficent before and after that makes this version original.
We meet our unlikely heroin first at a young age, played as a teen by Ella Purnell, and we learn that she is in fact a fairy, very happy and content in her land of bright colors and wonderous creatures. She soon meets a young human boy named Stefan, falls in love, and then has her heart slowly broken when Stefan inexplicably becomes more concerned with politics than romance as they grow older.
The boy grows up to be the bitter and paranoid King Stefan, played by Sharlto Copley (District 9), who gives Maleficent great reason to want to hurt him on his twisted path to the throne, but his own reason for growing so evil himself is unfortunately never explored, leaving a black hole in an otherwise mostly pleasing script.
When she learns that she has been scarred both emotionally and physically only so he could become King, the cheerful fairy puts on her infamous black robe, giving life to an legendary cinematic silhouette, as the once sunny forest grows dark and gloomy and the new queen of pain claims her own throne.
The most powerful scene in the movie is Maleficent’s inevitable arrival at the christening of Stefan’s newborn baby, Princess Aurora, with Jolie at her quietly raging, vengeance-hungry best, cursing the baby to one day fall into an unending sleep, as the slimy King squirms and the foreboding soundtrack thunders.
Jolie’s impossible cheek bones are sharper than ever thanks to some slight prosthetic enhancement, and the actress is clearly relishing the role, commanding viewers’ attention each time she appears on screen, owning a legendary character she was born to play.
The young princess Aurora, played at first by Jolie’s real life daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt and later by Elle Fanning (Super 8), comes of age in the course of the film, and comes to realize some adult-themed truths along the way, mainly that the truest love sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places.
Fanning is great at seeing the outside the world as if it is all brand new to her for the first time, giving the princess believable innocence.
In hopes of protecting or hiding her from Maleficent, it is still not clear to me exactly why the King decides to send his cursed daughter to be raised by a comedic trio of fairies in the same magic forest where he knows Maleficent lives, but it does allow Jolie to keep a watchful eye over the princess as she grows up.
Maleficent is actually less about the origin of evil than it is about not deciding who to love based only on who you are told to, looking beyond the one branded as a villain to see the hero inside.
A feast for the eyes, with epic action and a positive moral message aimed squarely at young girls experiencing young love and the boys who use notions of love recklessly, Maleficent reminds us that there is no greater fear than a woman scorned, as Disney has a blast with its most wicked, and fun, fairy tale in years.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Maleficent (rated PG) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills and at The Pioneer Theatre July 11 through July 17.