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'Maleficent' review: Saturated evil distorted by a plethora of sentimentality

Maleficent

Rating:
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Star

"Maleficent" is now playing in conventional, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent.
Angelina Jolie as Maleficent.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, used with permission.
One of the official posters for "Maleficent."
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, used with permission.

Based on Disney's animated 1959 classic "Sleeping Beauty," "Maleficent" is a live-action film told from the perspective of the villainous fairy turned demoness. The film stars Angelina Jolie in the title role and puts a new spin on a beloved tale.

"Maleficent" is clunky and off-balanced right from the start. Its visuals feeling familiar since they look like this ridiculous blend between Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful." The film begins with Maleficent as a child and as a fairy; not only with horns but also horned, feathered wings. She believes to fall in love with a boy named Stefan, but the two drift further and further apart as they grow up.

Magical creatures live in The Moors; a forest filled with eccentric magic of its own. Once Maleficent reaches adulthood, a war breaks out where the King attempts to destroy anything living in The Moors. Maleficent defeats the King, but is betrayed by an adult Stefan (Sharlto Copley). Stefan eventually becomes king and has a daughter named Aurora, which is where the "Sleeping Beauty" tale comes into play. After Maleficent's wicked curse goes into effect and she has an opportunity to spend time with the ill-fated child 16 years later (played by Elle Fanning), she begins to realize that she may have made a mistake. Meanwhile, Stefan goes crazy plotting his revenge.

Isobelle Molloy, who portrays a young Maleficent, is nerve grating in the role. She spends her time tripping over her English accent and does little to make the audience actually care about the character. Angelina Jolie doesn't have much room to boast either. When Maleficent is evil, Jolie is absolutely fantastic. But those moments don't last very long as the character becomes more and more watered down and diluted until you can't recognize her anymore. Jolie tends to overact at times, especially when she wakes up to realize something she holds very dear has been taken from her.

Angelina Jolie is delightfully wicked and relishes in cruel behavior, but she is almost unbearable as a fairy. The dark fantasy adventure begins as an origin story that eventually parallels "Sleeping Beauty," but then ventures way off course. Maleficent is a character that is thrown into pure darkness, but this film allows her to let the light back in. The film deserves credit for altering a legend, but it gets too carried away too fast and its bulky visuals are more of a burden than anything else.

With the depths of The Moors being awfully similar to Pandora in "Avatar," Aurora's aunts being female versions of The Three Stooges, and a welcomed twist that becomes bittersweet in less than five minutes, "Maleficent" is a failed attempt at reconstructing one of the most evil animated characters of all time.