Saturday, May 31, 2014

Movie Review: ‘Maleficent’

* out of five
97 minutes
Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images
Walt Disney Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Maleficent’ on Blogcritics.

After Disney’s billion dollar success of Alice in Wonderland, we were bound to see more live-action adaptations of their animated classics. On paper, the new Maleficent probably sounded like a sure-fire hit. Angelina Jolie perfectly inhabits the human form of the animated Sleeping Beauty villain, and Elle Fanning is an adorable Aurora, but director Robert Stromberg makes one of the worst kinds of debuts. With a production plagued with issues, what should be a brisk 97 minutes feels like eternity. Not even screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s attempts to add in some twists work, and there are times when all she’s doing is ripping off her own Beauty and the Beast.

Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty, Elle Fanning, Angelina Jolie, Sharlto CopleyIn this version of the story, we are introduced to Maleficent as a young fairy (Isobelle Molloy). Living in the moors amongst her fellow fairies and pixies, she comes across a young boy named Stefan (Michael Higgins). Caught stealing, she offers to take him to the edge of the moors where the two fall in love. Once grown, Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is living in the castle under King Henry (Kenneth Cranham), who wants Maleficent destroyed. Stefan drugs Maleficent and takes her wings, granting him Kingship after Henry dies. Eventually, Stefan and the Queen give birth to baby Aurora causing Maleficent to crash the party and put a curse on the bouncing baby girl.

Stefan orders a trio of pixies — Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Flittle (Lesley Manville), and Thistlewit (Juno Temple) — to keep his baby girl safe until the day after her 16th birthday to keep her from fulfilling her destiny. This is where the story begins to drift on to its own world as Maleficent employs the help of the shapeshifting Diaval (Sam Riley) and begins to watch over Aurora (eventually played by Fanning) as she grows up to become the sleeping beauty she’s meant to be. Maleficent begins to grow a heart and tries to revoke her own curse, but can even true love’s kiss save the day?

Maleficent plays out like a 90-minute prologue. It takes 30 minutes before Aurora is even born and another 20 before she becomes the Sleeping Beauty we all know is coming. Yes, I know the film is called Maleficent, but all we’re offered here is the world’s weirdest case of stalking and voyeurism. Jolie may make for a striking live-action version of our titular character, but she’s stuck in a movie where she’s given absolutely nothing to do. Let alone that giving her a change of heart actually makes her even less likeable. Not to mention Copley, who is actually the worst actor in the movie.

Stromberg may get some iconic visuals right from the original animated film, but the rest of his production design is one of the ugliest you’re likely to see all year. Probably too frightening for children and way too boring for adults, Maleficent was apparently made for nobody. A boring mess of a film from beginning to end — Lana Del Rey’s version of Once Upon a Dream should give you an idea to the film’s pace. This deserves to be an even bigger flop than last year’s The Lone Ranger. One of the worst films of the year so far.

Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

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