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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3244)

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Maleficent 
A Tame Maleficent, a Wicked Jolie
2.5/4 stars

With all the reboots and "re-imagining" of characters and stories (Batman to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and much, much more) it's wasn't a question of if Disney was going to dip into this well, but when. While so many heroes are given a "gritty" side these days, in this case one of the Disney's most recognizable villains is given a more favorable makeover. Sleeping Beauty was never my favorite Disney movie - but Maleficent (and that dragon) were by and far the best parts of the animated classic. However, this story isn't a retelling of that tale, but rather the story taken from the point-of-view of the main villain - who maybe isn't so bad after all.

We are introduced to two kingdoms - the human kingdom, where greed and power rule and the harmonious forest kingdom where faeries and all matter of fey creatures live in harmony. We are introduced to one such fairy - Maleficent, a young girl, who is tasked with keeping things in order. A young human has trespassed, and she warns him in no short order to leave - but not before returning what he has stolen. But a small gesture from him shows her another side - and in no short order, the two fall in love - alas, a love that isn't to last. But it won't be the last she sees of him.

Years later, Maleficent has become the queen of the faeries, and chief protector of her realm. It isn't long before the humans try to attack - but things don't go so well and the near-death king makes an edict - whoever brings him the head of Maleficent will become the next king. Enter our one-time suitor who goes to Maleficent - seemingly to warn her - but, after failing to kill her, takes her wings as a prize instead. Thus begins her fall into evil - as she sees mankind as driven by nothing but the greed and power she has come to know all too well. When the new king has a daughter - she visits the kingdom and bestows her curse (this is where the original tale comes into play) but as the years pass, and she keeps an eye on her charge, she becomes attached to the young princess Aurora and comes to regret her decision only to realize there is nothing she can do to stop it.

First off, Angelina Jolie is an excellent Maleficent. She has that evil glimmer in her eye and the right inflection to ooze that evil persona. Likewise, Elle Fanning lands a role she always wanted and glows as the Princess Aurora. Sharlto Copley is likewise well cast as the king who slowly loses his grip on reality and gives in to paranoia and madness. I also like the trio of Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville at a trio of ditzy pixies who are given the task of raising Aurora (and somehow never kill her despite A) trying to starve her B) nearly letting her fall off a cliff and C) at one point trying to feed her spiders). You also have Sam Riley as Maleficent's familiar - mostly a crow, but sometimes a man (and, during the finale, that amazing dragon).

The problem I have is that while I know Disney plays things safe, I kind of wanted a darker Maleficent. At PG, you don't really get enough of that "evil" despite Jolie's best intentions. And as much as modern CG has taken us, the effects were decent, but not exactly amazing. I was also a bit surprised that Maleficent was essentially reduced to a woman scorned - and also surprised this was such a big hit with the female crowd. I get that Jolie and Fanning were a draw, but the story didn't seem that empowering to me.

That being said, the movie itself is entertaining - it does a good job of mixing humor with heart and doesn't get too bogged down in the whole redemption angle. Most of the credit for the movie working so well has to go to Jolie, who really does add the perfect touch to the role. I don't think this is going to rewrite the history books when it comes to the classic fairy tale, but it is worthy enough for a family night in with some good morals, vibrant visuals and a wickedly-good performance from Jolie.


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