3 out of 4 stars
Drugs, the severing of body parts, romance, ultimate betrayal and the willingness to put a baby to sleep so she never wakes up: Welcome to a new chapter of Disney.
The company whose iconic, larger-than-life characters have brought nothing but love and happiness for generations has revealed its darker side with Maleficent, the tale of the fairy who made Sleeping Beauty go night-night.
We know Disney has some evil in it, as you can’t have a conflict without a sinister villain. Snow White has Queen Grimhilde, Cinderella has Lady Tremaine, Mulan has Shan Yu, Ariel has Ursula The Sea Witch and Pocahontas has Governor Ratcliffe.
And Sleeping Beauty – whose real name is Aurora, did you know that? – has the meanest, baddest adversary of them all: Maleficent (Angelina Jolie).
Maleficent, who grew up a fun-loving fairy with her furry little friends in the woods, becomes evil when Stefan, the man she loved, drugs her and severs her wings so he can become king. Now, she’s hell-bent on making him pay — by making his newborn daughter suffer.
Jolie delivers one of the best performances of her career in a classic tale that debuted in 1959, but received a desperately needed wake-up call to the 21st century.
Quickly: How many great movies has Brad Pitt’s babe been in lately? She hasn’t won a major award since earning the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in Girl, Interrupted in 2000.
She’s smoking hot, but she hasn’t been in anything really worth seeing – aside from all of her bikini and lingerie pictures on the Internet – since Changeling in 2009.
But Jolie’s perfectly cast in Maleficent, as her stunning beauty overcomes her awkward horns, while her stern, yet feminine tone make you believe that she’s really out to get Aurora.
Director Robert Stromberg has gone all-in with Jolie in what’s essentially a gamble, as Disney spent $175 million on this film, hoping to do what the broadway hit Wicked did for the Wicked Witch of the West.
Will it happen? It could, because Maleficent, which opens with a storybook-themed voiceover narration, is a Disney movie in name only. There’s a tremendous amount of violence for a Disney film, which in the world of box office dollars, is bad because it could scare parents from taking their children. But it’s good because its PG rating makes it attractive to teenagers and adults.
There’s no shortage of plots.
It’s the world of humans, ruled by King Stefan, against the outlying moors, which is home Maleficent, fairies, trolls, all sorts of cuddly creatures and the protective wickermen, who are essentially trees that turn into bad-ass soldiers.
It’s Maleficent against Stefan, which symbolizes the battle between loyalty and love versus betrayal and power that stems from the loss of childhood innocence.
Maleficent, when seen in 3D, takes you on a journey. You feel you are flying alongside Jolie as she whisks through the woods and you certainly feel for her when her boyfriend drugs her and takes her magical wings. You want her to get revenge, yet at the same time, you loathe her for punishing a child for the sins of her father.
Aside from phenomenal work from makeup artist Rick Baker, the rest of the cast simply supports Jolie with good – but not great – performances, making her a one-woman show.
But it’s definitely a show worth watching.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.