Release Date: May 30, 2014
Running Time: 97 minutes
Maleficent isn’t Sleeping Beauty as seen through the eyes of the wickedest of Disney villains. Instead, the Mouse House’s live-action revisionist fairy tale inexplicably transforms the malevolent Maleficent into a misunderstood anti-hero whose curse on Princess Aurora can be justified by the centuries-old antagonism between humans and supernatural beings. With her jagged cheekbones, piercing eyes, and haunting beauty, Angelina Jolie may look like the Maleficent we love to hate but director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton strip her of the hatred and anger that motivate her to comatose a Disney princess. It’s one thing to offer a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s twisted perspective; it’s another to make her a sympathetic figure whose only crime is to act like a jealous jilted lover. Stromberg and Woolverton seek to humanize Maleficent from the get-go as they explain her origin. Before she loses her wings, the young Maleficent’s the sweetest and most powerful fairy in a magical realm called the Moors. Humans are fearful of the kindly creatures that inhabitant the very Disney-ified Moors, so naturally Maleficent makes the mistake of falling for the human boy who grows up to become King Stefan by stealing her wings. Evolving into an unstoppable force of vengeance, Maleficent turns the Moors into a dark, desolate hellhole and strikes back at the hammy Sharlto Copley’s King Stefan by placing the curse on his newborn daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning). So far, so good. Jolie fully embraces Maleficent’s wickedness with unbridled enthusiasm. However, all hopes that Maleficent will become the very personification of evil are quickly dashed the moment we see her reaction to the baby Aurora and the lengths to which she ensures her safety whenever she’s placed in danger. Maleficent may want Aurora to live to see her 16th birthday so she can exact her revenge, but her eyes quickly betray her. They reveal the maternal feelings Maleficent’s begins to harbor for the girl who remains in the protective custody of the three good fairies Knotgrass (Imedla Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville). It’s at this exact moment that Maleficent moves away from Sleeping Beauty toward a climax that borrows heavily from a very recent Disney princess fairy tale. It’s understandable that Stromberg and Woolverton would want to distinguish Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty by examining the redemptive power of unconditional love. Unfortunately, this transition occurs too early, so we’re stuck with a nice but dull Maleficent until her final confrontation with the now-villainous King Stefan. Jolie’s oddly insincere when expressing Maleficent’s genuine feelings of concern for Fanning’s nondescript Aurora. Jolie’s only truly comfortable wearing her black gown devil horns when in malicious Maleficent mode. This is the Maleficent we want to watch torment Aurora. Maleficent was evil incarnate in Sleeping Beauty. In Maleficent, she’s less wicked than Cinderella’s stepmother.
Aired: May 29, 2014
Web site: http://movies.disney.com/maleficent