Movie review: It will take more than a kiss to wake you up from 'Maleficent'

What It's AboutMay 29, 2014 

Dull and dreary, "Maleficent," this "old tale anew" take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, is a bunch of over-hyped, warmed-over malarkey.

The evil villainess, so chilling in Disney's 1959 animated film, is given a revisionist spin as a wronged fairy presiding over the moors in an enchanted kingdom.

Maybe it sounded good on paper. Linda Woolverston, who penned "The Lion King" and "Mulan" for Disney, is partly responsible for this overbaked version, along with a long list of credited writers. They strain credibility, even for a fantasy, and the story feels padded.

Throughout, the movie has that sensory visual overload feel that leaves you empty. Needlessly crammed with too many characters and creatures, the movie attempts to concentrate on the curse Maleficent puts on King Stefan's princess daughter Aurora. At age 16, she will fall into a deep slumber, only to be awakened by love's true kiss.

But before they take an eternity to get to happily ever after, they first must explain the thorny backstory. Zzzzzzz ...

Performances

With her severe cheekbones accented and blood-red trademark poofy lips, Angelina Jolie looks like a cartoon, with a scary resemblance to Joan Crawford's likeness in "Mommie Dearest."

The horns and turban-like headdress are emphasized, and director Robert Stromberg has featured countless close-ups of a frightening-looking Jolie -- distracting cutaways like the "American Idol" directors overdo with Jennifer Lopez.

The rest of the cast is clearly second-fiddle. As much as Sharlto Copley is to be admired for "District 9," he seems miscast as King Stefan. Elle Fanning ("Super 8"), a darling teenager, is an appropriate sweet presence, but her role demands nothing but a few giggles and lots of smiles from the pretty princess.

Jolie is the dominant force here, and depending what you think of her, will determine your enjoyment of the performance. She's hammy in a vampire-like way. I kept waiting her to sprout fangs.

What Works

The film's short run time provides blessed relief when it's over.

What Doesn't Work

Robert Stromberg, the visual effects wizard behind "Oz the Great and Powerful" and "Alice in Wonderland," is fond of filling the frame with excessive forestry and fauna. He goes for the dark images.

The film is really not suitable for young children -- too scary -- so what is the intended market?

"Maleficent" is a misfire, along the lines of the awful adventure "John Carter."

1 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Robert Stromberg

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple

Rated: PG for sequences of fantasy, action and violence, including frightening images.

Length: 1:37

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