Extra, Extra… the real Maleficent finally exposed. Disney reinvents its own classic animated tale from 1959
By Peter Covino
A&E Editor/Film Critic
So this is what really happened to Sleeping Beauty.
Actually, this retelling of the Disney animated classic is more like what really happened to Maleficent, and how she wasn’t born bad, as Jessica Rabbit once famously said. She was just drawn that way.
Maleficent, magnifcently played with snarling lips for much of the film by Angelina Jolie, was once, way back when, just another happy fairy in the woods.
She was a powerful gal, with really large wings, and gentle like Aurora, the heroine of the Disney tale. She, and all her friends, were the creatures of the forest. And there were a lot of creatures.
But the nearby kingdom had a really bad king (don’t they always) and there is a war between the forest creatures and humans, and though it takes a while, the bad king wants revenge after being defeated.
Fast-forward through a short romance between the girl Maleficent and a boy from the kingdom, and the king has got his revenge through the boy, who has been promised a kingdom — he strips Maleficent of her magnificent wings.
And so the evil grows.
The story resembles the Disney film at about this point. The new king, Stefan, has a beautiful baby girl named Aurora, and everyone is celebrating. (The Fairy Godmothers have been replaced by three pixies.) And once again, Maleficent crashes the party and utters that famous curse about the spinning wheel and eternal sleep.
The king has the pixies raise Aurora, far away in the forest, in the hope she will escape the curse, which is supposed to take place by her 16th year.
There are some major changes in the plot at this point as well, mainly about the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora (Elle Fanning). But my favorite addition to the tale is Maleficent’s relationship with a wolf she rescued years earlier and turned human (Sam Riley), and how she turns him into whatever creature serves her needs be it crow, horse or worm.
And somehow, despite all that evil, this Maleficent is much nicer than the original Disney villain. So much so, she is almost deserving of getting her named removed from the Disney Villain’s parking lot at Magic Kingdom.
Maleficent has a nice look for much of the film, looking almost like it came from the pages of classic fairy tale book. But the 3D, for the most part, is not essential and just a waste of money.
With its PG rating, Maleficent is aimed more precisely at the younger set, but fortunately, it also is enjoyable for adults. There are some violent (not too violent) action scenes, which might make the movie unsuitable for the very young (yes, the dragon is back), but most likely only if they are really impressionable.
I remember hiding under the table whenever the Wicked Witch appeared on TV in The Wizard on Oz. And that was just a month ago.
Critic’s rating: B