Not being a big fan of classic Disney animation (I prefer the post-LITTLE MERMAID ones) nor of the recent ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) or OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) live-action extravaganzas, I was a little hesitant about MALEFICENT, as it looked like it was cut from the same cloth. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the Sleeping Beauty-redux and even got a little teary-eyed toward the end.
The untold story of one of classic fairy tales’ most evil villains, MALEFICENT pulls back the curtain and shows us why she became so wicked. We first meet her as a winged fairy child (played by the lovely Isobelle Molloy). She meets a young poor boy named Stefan (Michael Higgins) and they bridge the gap between the two disparate worlds of fairies and humans that for years have feared one another.
As their friendship grows and matures, so does Stefan’s (Sharlto Copley) need for power and he betrays Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) in the most ghastly way possible, which not only breaks her heart, but her spirit.
When Stefan becomes king and marries, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Having grown cold and hard, Maleficent brings a curse on their newborn daughter Aurora and the rest is fairy tale history…but this time with a decidedly different spin.
The movie clearly belongs to Angelina Jolie and it’s her performance that truly gives the film its wings. Not to say that it’s poorly written, but it’s easy to see that without her commanding presence in the film, it would have fallen flat. Jolie truly gives an exceptional and emotionally charged performance.
The plodding is fairly simplistic and some of the supporting characters are a tad one-note, but fortunately the best efforts of the filmmakers and Jolie help the material rise high and deliver a satisfying film in the end.
I ultimately found it quite charming in places and, as I mentioned above, it did tug at my heartstrings a few times. On top of that, it’s a good family film that explores some interesting themes about how we treat one another and how decisions we make in haste may have unseen future consequences.