Review: MALEFICENT (2014) Angelina Jolie shines in this retelling of Disney's classic

May 29, 2014

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MALEFICENT (2014) Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Miranda Richardson, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Brenton Thwaites. Directed by Robert Stromberg

There's no doubt that Angelina Jolie looks wicked in her Maleficent wardrobe and those expecting a dark and sinister film may be surprised to find out that deep down this menacing fairy is a softie, "Maleficent the benevolent," catchy but unexpected.

Disney's 1959 classic "Sleeping Beauty" has been reworked into a live action film by first time director Robert Stromberg who previously worked as the Production Designer for Avatar, Oz: The Great and Powerful, and Alice In Wonderland. Not surprisingly, the film oozes with colorful visuals and lots of CGI creatures, some of which look like they stepped out of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings, but I have to give kudos to Stromberg for not letting Jolie get swallowed up by the rich and vivid background, she stands out in every scene she is featured in. Jolie's Maleficent has the traditional horns, cheekbones, glowing eyes, ruby red lips, and black outfit, everything except the green makeup, which gives her a more elegant instead of wicked look. I expected the film was going to go the route of Snow White & The Huntsman or Red Riding Hood and escalate the dark side of the narrative, so I was a bit thrown off when it didn't, don't get me wrong, there are some pretty violent scenes and images that may be frightening for young kids, but not enough to earn it a PG-13 rating.

Sharlto Copley fits the role of King Stefan who betrays Maleficent and turns her heart black and Elle Fanning does a good job as the young princess Aurora who is cursed to fall into an eternal sleep on her 16th birthday only to be awakened by a true love kiss, but it's Angelina Jolie's portrayal as Maleficent that makes the film worth watching even though she's not as threatening as I would have liked. Her best scene is when she walks into the castle and place's the curse on newborn baby Aurora, manifesting that old school Maleficent that we've come to love, but as the narrator states at the beginning of the film, "Let us tell an old story anew," and it does. Comedy is injected into the film courtesy of Sam Riley as the shape shifting crow Diaval and the three pixies played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville.

Maleficent is a visual treat and satisfying film for the entire family. With a running time of just 97 minutes I feel like some characters were just rushed through the story, blink and you might miss the prince, but director Stromberg keeps the film moving and ties it all together maybe a little too quickly in the end. Kids will love this film and fans of the original Sleeping Beauty may feel betrayed but remember this is a retelling of that classic story not a remake. Just relax and enjoy.

(3 stars)