Most people know the gist of Sleeping Beauty: Evil witch places a curse on a King’s daughter. At adolescence, the curse makes her fall into a deep sleep after pricking her finger. Only true love’s kiss can wake her up. Prince kisses her, wakes her up, vanquishes evil witch… blah blah blah. Pretty standard fairy tale stuff. Maleficent is a retelling of that story, specifically Disney’s animated 1959 version, from a different point of view which makes the classic villain the protagonist.
Angelina Jolie plays the titular character and she was born for the role. It almost seems as if the original animated villain was modeled after her. Unfortunately, her performance may be the only bright spot in the movie. The script is flat at best. Gone is the sense of adventure that the original, or any other Disney animated film, brought. A beginning action sequence between an army and magical creatures seems present only to fill the summer movie battle quota. The middle of the film is just plain boring. Even Maleficent herself seems to have lost her edge from the animated version. She’s definitely likable, but at times she is just too nice.
The supporting characters in the film provide little assistance. Elle Fanning (Super 8) brings next to nothing to the role of Princess Aurora. Brenton Thwaites’ Prince Phillip seems to only be in the movie because he’s in the animated version and adds virtually nothing to the story. Sharlto Copley (District 9) plays King Stefan, a guy who seems hell bent on teaching all female viewers to never trust men again. He’s just plain heartless, and not even for a good reason. And the three fairies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville) are meant to be comic relief, but would probably only make an infant chuckle.
There’s probably a good portion of people who didn’t know this film was a remake of Sleeping Beauty before I just told you. My generation, those born in the 80’s to early 90’s, grew up in the Disney golden age. Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King; these are the tales we know. Which means that, more than likely, a vast majority of movie goers won’t remember Sleeping Beauty if they’ve seen it at all. In that sense, Maleficent feels like an original tale. And as such, it simply doesn’t resonate. Maybe its message of “True Love” would’ve been more impactful, had Frozen not done it less than a year ago.
FINAL GRADE: C, Wait for it on Redbox.