Maleficent movie poster
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Maleficent
Maleficent movie poster

Maleficent Movie Review

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The new Disney movie Maleficent offers a new take on “Sleeping Beauty,” but in reality it’s a slumber-inducing nightmare of nothingness. Proof that sometimes villains should best be left as villains, Maleficent attempts to make its title character the protagonist—but what a boring protagonist she makes.

On the positive side, if I’m ever having trouble sleeping, I know I can just pop Maleficent in for a few minutes and she will magically send me to Z-town. The movie is literally that dull.

Maleficent is a bloated mess of Hollywood hubris, a visually pretty piece of filmmaking completely devoid of substance. The CGI is terrific, even if the magical world that the Disney machine has concocted look like every other magical world that has come before it, full of cartoonish characters, waterfalls and Rivendale-esque scenery. Angelina Jolie plays the title character earnestly, even though she is given shockingly little to do other than look angry and chant curses.

But below the surface, Maleficent is nothingness. The movie waters down every aspect of the “Sleeping Beauty” story you grew up with and even strips away the most exciting and/or interesting parts. Sometimes fairytales need villains, and the filmmakers’ attempt to turn King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) into a raging villain falls flat on its face; he’s just another generic bad guy. Meanwhile, the evil sorceress Maleficent is revealed to be much nicer than you’d expect, but what’s the fun in that? Sometimes bad guys should just remain bad guys. Or bad girls.

With many of the more interesting plot points removed from the story, what’s left isn’t much. The wonderful Elle Fanning plays Sleeping Beauty, but she too is given little to do other than to smile and nod. The film explains why the title character goes bad, because for some reason we need to know why. Even worse, like Disney’s disappointing  Oz, The Great and Powerful (which suffered from the same general problems), Maleficent chocks everything up to a woman’s scorn after the alleged love of her life betrays her.

For Maleficent to succeed, the filmmakers needed to weave their story in with the one most audiences know—a la “Wicked”—rather than create a whole new one. As is, the filmmakers have simply made a boring version of a beloved fairytale. I literally struggled to stay awake during Maleficent, and so will you. The filmmakers messed up so bad the curse bounced back and hit the audience.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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