Has perfect 15 minute opening, and the rest is moderately good or decent. Maleficent is Angelina Jolie’s chance to munch on a Disney villain role, with Elle Fanning as the would-be cursed Sleeping Beauty. There is a smorgasbord of visual effects, but this time, they contribute to the look of captivating fantasy landscapes. Like a smaller “Avatar.” Before she becomes a witch, Jolie’s title character is an optimistic fairy girl – with powers – but curious about love. She is spurned by Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley as the older version), and falls into some serious misanthropy and acts of vengeance.
The ever-intense Copley is dialed down enough not to make Stefan, who becomes the Moors king, not too scary. But he grows desperate and paranoid when Maleficent declares a curse on his daughter Aurora (Fanning’s character), who will fall into eternal sleep upon pricking her finger on a spinning wheel spindle that is destined to happen. What Maleficent doesn’t count on is that she will be charmed by Aurora as she grows up, and the maternal instincts in her take over in some scenes. But she’s still wicked.
The prologue writing is very strong in the film’s opening passages, coinciding with sweeping camera moves through the kingdom and forest of this fairy tale world. Inevitably, it leads to some muddle in explaining the friction upon the Moors, and some distracting fairies who fail as protectors of Aurora while she is growing up. The biting question is: How similar an outcome will it have in comparison with the animated “Sleeping Beauty” of 1959?
There is enough originality and imagination to make this a unique production, even though, to me, it burrows into darkness a little too far. Jolie’s performance is the right balance of power-hungry and cunning humor. She commands the movie. We merely think Fanning is sweet. To sum up, this is the kind of movie that will be very well liked by the younger pre-teen crowd for a long, long video library life.
98 Minutes. Rated PG.
FANTASY FILMS / AGES 10+ / WEEKEND FAMILY & DINNER MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Sleeping Beauty” (1959); “Beauty and the Beast” (1991); “Ever After” (1998); “Brave” (2012).