My dayjob as an educator comes with a unique set of challenges, but also offers some undeniable perks. One of those is the ocassional opportunity to catch a movie during work hours and not feel guilty, because you’re chaperoning 20+ exciteable pre-teens. By the time you’ve got them all in their seats, you’ve earned that movie! Yesterday, I got to watch Maleficent, Disney’s newest take on the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
As a fairytale retelling, this one doesn’t break the mold, but it doesn’t pretend to, either. It’s a fun, pretty and unpretenious ride, albeit a bit bumpy. If you know your movies, you’ll notice almost instantly that this one had a few too many cooks in the kitchen. The script allegedly went through at least 15 versions before making it to the screen, and it shows — plot points are introduced by the off-screen narrator, scenes don’t transition as much as they crash into each other, and a few tonal shifts along the way are rather jarring. That being said, these flaws are offset by the movie’s beating heart, which is the story and character of Maleficent.
Angelina Jolie brings an incredible amount of humanity, confidence and grace to the role. You will never look at Sleepy Beauty the same again after watching her portrayal. She is Malificent. Sadly, the
remaining cast is not as well-rounded. The movie seems to tease a nuanced approach early on, but then abandons that in favor of a simple role reversal: The characters we expect to be heroes are bumbling idiots, walking plot devices or raving lunatics, while the traditional villain is mostly misunderstood. This is a pity
especially when it comes to King Stefan, who starts out as layered, conflicted character, only to then turn into a monster heel for no good reason.
While not groundbreaking, Maleficent offers an entertaining twist on a familiar story, some impressive visuals and a stellar performance by Angelina Jolie. As such, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of comparable projects like Hansel & Gretel, Mirror Mirror or even Snow White and the Huntsman, and is well worth a watch.
tl,dr verdict: * * *