Movie Review: MALEFICENT

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

REVIEW: MALEFICENT / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: ROBERT STROMBERG / SCREENPLAY: LINDA WOOLVERTON / STARRING: ANGELINA JOLIE, SHARLTO COPLEY, ELLE FANNING, SAM RILEY, IMELDA STAUNTON, LESLEY MANVILLE, JUNO TEMPLE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Sometimes we all need a bit of magic in our lives; there must be more to movies than spandex superheroes, giant space aliens, scaly monsters and big stomping robots. Maleficent is a welcome antidote to Hollywood’s torrential tide of more-of-the-same summer blockbusters and, despite its orgy of CGI and largely-forgettable 3D (2D screenings are available), it’s a refreshing throwback to the classic Disney era of wicked witches, terrible spells, beautiful enchanted princesses and slapstick fairies. Oh, and it’s got Angelina Jolie…

Angelina is quite simply magnificent as Maleficent; it’s impossible to imagine anybody else imbuing the character - the Mistress of All Evil from the classic Sleeping Beauty fairytale - with the heady mixture of twisted venom and genuine pathos Jolie manages to conjure up. Her look is very much inspired by Disney’s own 1959 Sleeping Beauty animated feature - her cheekbones are so sharp they could cut steak - but her Maleficent is much more three-dimensional and the whole point of the movie is to explain what turned her to the Dark Side in the first place and to offer the hope of redemption for even the blackest heart. Betrayed in love as a delicate fairy hopping and skipping about the moors which are her home, Maleficent vows to use her magical powers against the humans who preside over the Kingdom from their glittering castle. When her first (and only) love Stefan (Copley) becomes King, she vows revenge by bestowing a terrible curse upon his first-born, the baby Aurora. To avoid the curse - Aurora will be plunged into an eternity of sleep when she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday, a sleep from which she can only be roused by “true love’s kiss” - Stefan sends the child off into the custody of three ditzy pixies (Staunton, Manville, Temple) until her sixteenth birthday and beyond. But when Maleficent happens across the curious child on the moors as she starts to grow up, her frostiness turns into something entirely different - but the irreversible curse is still looming…

Maleficent is absolutely charming. Linda Woolverton’s script adds meat to the bones of its lead character and yet stays true to the Sleeping Beauty story itself (albeit with one or two fresh twists unlikely to infuriate purists) and the film crackles with lively performances. Jolie dominates but Copley is good growly value as the surly King, Staunton and co provide decent comic relief as the pixies (although they look a bit eerie in miniature) and Brendon Thwaites is suitably wide-eyed as Phillip the prince who might (or might not) be Aurora’s true love. Only Elle Fanning draws the short straw in the largely-thankless role of perpetually-cheery Aurora.

Despite its occasional hints of darkness - tiny children might find the tree-monster battle and fire-breathing dragon a bit too intense - Maleficent, which gets in and gets the job done in just over ninety minutes, is a genuine feel-good family-friendly treat, a little bit of   magic in an often-mechanical and by-the-numbers modern world of movie-making. A Jolie good effort, you might say…

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10

Actual Rating: 


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