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The horns have it: Movie review of ‘Maleficent’

Movie Poster
Movie PosterDisney Studios

Who wants to hang out with Sleeping Beauty when Maleficent could be your dinner guest? Besides Sleeping Beauty probably can’t have more than one glass of wine without yawning while Maleficent is going to challenge everyone to a tequila drinking contest. However remember, you have to actually invite Maleficent because if you do not she can really screw with your children’s futures.

Maleficent is a live action retelling of the 1959 Disney classic Sleeping Beauty (a movie that when it first debuted was considered a failure by both critics and box office receipts). It is also Angelina Jolie’s biggest weekend opener and will probably be one of her last films if rumors about her retirement from acting are to be believed. Maleficent is also the type of role that it is hard to imagine anyone but Jolie playing. I am sure many Hollywood actresses aspired to wear the horns but only Jolie looks as if she was born with them actually attached to her head.

Speaking of which, the film gives the backstory as to how Maleficent became bad to the horns. It is a commentary about ambition versus love and the devastating affects when one chooses wrong. Like many recent movies of this genre, the story attempts to humanize a once one dimensional villain. Maleficent did not have mere anger issues because she was not invited to baby Aurora’s christening, no she crashed the celebration because her trust had been betrayed and her wings literally ripped away. In her hate spiral Maleficent utters a curse involving a pricked finger on a spinning wheel when Aurora turns sixteen.

Like the original Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Aurora is spirited away by three “good fairies” which I started to think of as turncoats. I mean it isn’t as if they really do Aurora any favors since they are ill equipped to raise a baby. For instance, the task of actually making sure Aurora is fed or does not tumble off a cliff as a toddler is ironically given to Maleficent who at first wants the child to live long enough to fulfill her curse and then later because she has developed a fondness for the child - who at one point is actually played by Jolie’s daughter. Oh, on the fairy front, maybe I do not remember Sleeping Beauty that well (considering the last time I saw it I may have been seven) but wasn’t the alpha fairy the blue one, in Maleficent it is the pink one played by Imelda Staunton (a fairy who has a little too much Dolores Umbridge in her).

Maleficent has not received great praise from more mainstream critics, and it isn’t the sort of film that one would label a masterpiece, but it is one of those rare films that is made compelling by the actress cast in the starring role – this is a part that will forever be identified to Jolie. Further the character of Maleficent has fascinated generations of young moviegoers. For many of us she was our first truly frightening villain. For me she was much more memorable than the Evil Queen in Snow White or the stepmother in Cinderella. Neither of those villainesses sported horns and when it was time to put up or shut up nobody but Maleficent turned themselves into a fire breathing dragon.

As I grow older I also realize that these “bad women” were far more interesting than the pretty protagonists. For Sleeping Beauty and her fairy tale sorority sisters, they obtained power by being beautiful, sweet, and innocence (they don’t do things they react to things that have been done to them). Whereas the villainess sisterhood represent women who have lived long enough to have power, to recognize they have power, and desire to keep that power. Despite their usual unhappy endings these gals are doers.

I recommend Maleficent because it is a fun movie. I saw it in 3D which made all the more enjoyable. It is a woman’s film but watchable for all. It is the perfect for an evening with friends or with family. It should play well on DVD or cable.

Happy viewing!