“Maleficent” takes you on a ride into a non-kiddie realm of betrayal, vengeance and mother-daughter brouhaha. Is that a good thing for a Disney audience? On the other hand, look at “Frozen,” which dealt with some sibling rivalry and female empowerment issues. That worked, so there’s no reason why “Maleficent” (played by Angelina Jolie sporting the sharpest, sleekest cheekbones in the world) shouldn’t.
Recreated from the 1959 Walt Disney treatment of “Sleeping Beauty,” Maleficent is a beautiful fairy who gets ditched by her first love (Sleeping Beauty’s dad). He clips her wings, becomes king and finds another woman to be his queen. Plunged into the depths of despair, Maleficent turns to the dark side, putting a curse on the king’s new baby daughter. On the child’s 16th birthday, she will prick herself on a spinning wheel’s spindle and fall into an eternal sleep.
What Maleficent should have done, of course, is put a hex on King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) himself — perhaps causing him to lose all his hair overnight. The scorn of this woman, though, is much more furious, so he subsequently orders baby Princess Aurora to be raised and protected by three good fairies in the countryside. How’s that for fatherly responsibility?
Sixteen years go by and in the process, Maleficent, who’s a night creature, and Aurora (Elle Fanning), who’s mysteriously left on her own a lot, get to know each other in an enchanted forest. To her confusion, Maleficent finds herself having motherly urges toward the girl. As for the princess, she’s never had much of a home life and looks to Maleficent to fill the void.
Directed by former visual effects artist Robert Stromberg, there’s plenty in this movie for the eyes to revel in, courtesy of intense and heavy-duty CGI. Unfortunately, the intriguing psychological aspects of the story don’t quite make it to the forefront. “Maleficent” leaves most ends dangling sloppily, much like the creepy crawlies that hang from the trees in Aurora’s enchanted forest.
It’s also sad that Maleficent never gets to settle personal scores with King Stefan, who should get slapped with abuse, abandonment and child neglect charges. Shouldn’t they at least have had “The Talk,” or some kind of couple’s counseling to make him realize the error of his ways? Move on, Maleficent. You can do much better.