Hansel and Gretel? Check. Jack and the Beanstalk? Check. Red Riding Hood? Check. Wizard of Oz? Check. Cinderella? Check. Snow White? Double-check! Hollywood’s fractured fairytale train keeps on chooglin’ along and the latest story to be remixed is Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty, which is already a mash-up of the original French fable, La Belle au bois dormant, by Charles Perrault, and Little Briar Rose by the Brothers Grimm.
Disney’s Maleficent tells the beloved Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of the “evil” titular character, who curses the beautiful Princess Aurora to eternal sleep until she is kissed by her one true love. Coincidentally, I truly did not love this film, but it was most certainly sleep-inducing.
To be fair, this movie isn’t necessarily all bad. Angelina Jolie, who plays the fallen fairy turned evildoer, is quite excellent in the role. The twisted story proves to be an interesting concept, but it’s just poorly executed by first-time director, Robert Stromberg. The end credits also contain a remake of the classic Sleeping Beauty song, “Once Upon a Dream”, performed by Lana Del Rey, which is hauntingly awesome – but a film needs much more than a great end-credit song to make it worth watching.
From the time Maleficent loses her very cool wings until she gets them back – which is almost the entirety of the film – the story is simply boring and often borders on being inane. I mean, before her sixteenth birthday Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is destined to prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle? I know that this story originates in the seventeenth-century, but if you’re updating it why not write something a little more practical? When Aurora walks up to the pin and touches it my eyes were rolling faster than the spinning wheel itself.
The three good fairies, Flittle (Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple) – formerly called Merryweather, Flora, and Fauna, respectively – who are tasked with protecting and raising young Princess Aurora, are as annoying to the audience as they are to each other’s characters. A scene that has them throwing flour at each other was particularly irritating and pointless; making me wonder what demographic would actually enjoy seeing these shenanigans. It’s like something out of a bad Saturday morning live-action kid’s show that kids can’t even stand to watch.
The elaborate sets (digital and otherwise) look like they were leftovers from Oz the Great and Powerful, Snow White and the Huntsman and The Hobbit films. The effects and art are not terrible, but they’re just the same stuff we’ve seen a dozen times over; and the horrendous 3D makes the picture so dark and muddy that one can’t even enjoy what are probably pretty decent fantasy color schemes. (I recommend avoiding the 3D version altogether.)
Maleficent does pick up some steam during its climax and I enjoyed its twist on “true love’s kiss,” but everything leading up to that point seemed like a missed opportunity to potentially deliver something really special. I think young children are going to be especially disappointed by the tediousness of this film (in between the parts where they are too scared to keep their eyes open.)
Jolie’s performance keeps Maleficent from being a total maladaptation, but if you’ve seen the trailer for this film, then you’ve already seen the best it has to offer. I think Uncle Walt is probably rolling in his grave over this one. Grade: 4.5/10
Photos © 2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc.