The only thing of note I took from Maleficent is how to pronounce the name. For those interested, it is “mal-EF-uh-sent”.
This is a beautiful film that runs out of steam shortly after you adjust your 3-D glasses. It has fantastic special effects centering on various fairies and wood gnomes, but ironically nothing is more stunning than Angelina Jolie’s red lips.
And did I mention Angelina Jolie’s red lips? Red lips not found in nature? In scene after scene with her, nothing ever changes. Other than having her wings cut off after being sedated by a would-be lover, the movie basically calls upon the audience to stand at the foot of the altar and worship Ms. Jolie.
In a sense, it reminded me of her self-centered role playing opposite Johnny Depp in The Tourist (2010). Both films amount to little more than having the camera lust after Ms. Jolie’s powerful allure, and it rapidly causes you to wish that she would simply go home and see if Brad Pitt will allow her to take out the garbage.
Though Maleficent is based on the Sleeping Beauty story, you never see our star staring in the mirror while saying, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all”. Why would she need to do such an egotistical thing when Director Robert Stromberg is asking the audience to become human mirrors?
While I know I have the unfortunate tendency to give away elements of the plot, that is impossible to do with this movie. Initially, Ms. Jolie plays a kind fairy leading a gentle forest civilization as it makes peace with the competing human hoards living in an adjoining kingdom. When she falls in love with the human Stefan, he betrays her in order to be named King of his country. Think of Putin and the Ukraine and you know what’s coming.
Ms. Jolie, black horns and all, mutates into one colossally mean fairy. Seeking to get even with the human who clipped her wings, she boldly casts a curse on his infant daughter where she will drop into a death sleep when she turns 16.
The rest of the film amounts to little more than the young girl growing up under the protection of three fairies. These fairies have good intentions, but Larry, Curly and Moe (the Three Stooges) had a great deal more common sense. As the child grows older under the watchful eye of Maleficent, a relationship develops between the two that brings great regret to Maleficent. I won’t give away the ending, but given that the film adores Ms. Jolie, what is your guess?
Leslie Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple play the three goofy fairies who are raising the cursed child known as Aurora. Elle Fanning plays the little girl quite effectively, but she is given very little to do other than look cute. She is given little chance to project the emotion she displayed in both We Bought a Zoo and Super 8, both in 2011.
Stefan, the poor chap who chose to be King after snatching Maleficent’s wings, is played by Sharito Copley. It was an unconscionable mistake, and Stefan is bound to pay heavily for his error. While Mr. Copley embraces his role, the banal script unfortunately traps him in a fashion that prevents him from displaying the angst shown in District Nine (2009) or the angry hatred of the villain in last year’s Elysium.
This is a film that sucks all the life out of an intriguing fantasy. Ms. Jolie gives the audience little to root for while playing Maleficent. Quite frankly, if she wants to be recognized as a quality actress as shown in Wanted (2008), then she has to remember how to do something other than look like an attractive monster. After all, she at least had a long tail playing Grendel’s mother in Beowulf (2007).