Angelina Jolie is so perfectly cast as Maleficent that she should truly consider keeping those horns. She dresses like her character most of the time in real life, as far as I can tell, anyway, and those horns, combined with her sharp prosthetic cheekbones and real gigantic red lips, are basically everything.
In terms of the film “Maleficent,” she really is everything, for better or worse. There’s not a great deal to recommend about this CGI caper besides Jolie, but, for the most part, this is enough. The fairy tale of “Sleeping Beauty” has been fleshed out to include the story of Maleficent’s youth, as a winged fairy in a magical realm that resides in uneasy proximity to a kingdom of greedy, vengeful mortals.
A powerful leader of her people even as a young girl, she forms a sweet and innocent romance with a poor young mortal, Stefan. As he grows up, so does his ambition, and he sells Maleficent out big time, in a successful bid to be the next king. With tremendous self-possession, Maleficent reinvents herself as darker and more villainous, all in the name of protecting her magical kingdom. The fun of the film comes from Jolie’s character, which is not simply evil but delightfully arch and intelligent.
Of course, King Stefan’s daughter is Aurora, Sleeping Beauty, and this part of her story is the same — she is cursed to prick her finger and die at age 16. While it’s hard to muster sympathy for someone who would do that to a baby, the film surrounds Aurora with other characters so unsympathetic that Maleficent looks better by comparison.
As Aurora is whisked away to be raised in secret by three unpleasant and incompetent fairies, the king sinks deeper and deeper into obsessive revenge mode back at the castle. With foolish fairies and a terrible father, there is soon room for a better protector to rise over Aurora, and I won’t spoil the plot by telling you who that is, but my 8 year old daughter did predict every plot point of the last half of the film.
A lot of the story is padded out in the middle with scenes of Aurora, played angelically by Elle Fanning, and Maleficent’s charming consort, a crow/human played pleasingly by Sam Riley, as they cavort and bond in fairy land. I tend to just zone out when the screen is filled with CGI madness, especially in 3D, and I kept wanting to take off my glasses so I could see properly.
So I was underwhelmed rather than blown away by the high tech magic. But I was surprisingly involved with the human performances, and, while I have no problem with her as an actress, this is the first time I can say that Angelina Jolie made a film worth watching purely on her own strengths (and awesome horns). It seems that it was her least realistic character that unmasked the true her.
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