Friday, May 30, 2014

Maleficent Movie Review

Angelina Jolie dazzles in Maleficent

Taking Liberties

Live long enough, and eventually everyone becomes a hero. Want proof? Look no further than HBO's True Blood, where werewolves, witches and vampires vie for your affection (instead of your blood) week after week. Evidently, bad is the new good again: Even the "Mistress of All-Evil" is getting in on the act, courtesy of Robert Stromberg's Maleficent, a modern take on Sleeping Beauty that's two-thirds magical, but one-third dull. Angelina Jolie questions the sanctity of "true love" as only Angelina can... with daunting beauty and a regal presence unmatched by anyone in Hollywood today. Jolie single-handedly keeps Maleficent afloat, amidst a forest full of cheesy CGI creatures and untold liberties with the original storyline.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: "Maleficent" explores the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the classic "Sleeping Beauty" and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king's newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

What’s Best: Jolie's pure dynamite in the titular role, decked out in blazing black from horns to toe. She oozes charisma, and commands attention; but her character winds up being a bit too nice for my liking. Thankfully, she's at her best when putting folks to sleep (sometimes mid-sentence, thank you very much) or in every scene with devilish looking Sam Riley (Diaval.) Jolie & Riley share terrific chemistry, despite their uniquely one-sided relationship (the former can turn the latter into a bird or a dragon, at the drop of a hat.) Fantasy lovers have lots to look forward to, although most of it has been seen before (Avatar, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc.)

What’s Not: I suppose someone has to play it straight; but Elle Fanning spends more time smiling than sleeping. I understand it's her goal to be upbeat and draw Maleficent's good side out, but it gets downright annoying super-fast. As for the aforementioned liberties taken with the story, it becomes almost comical towards the end, culminating in a half-hearted apology by Maleficent herself, "You see, the story was not quite as you were told..."

As for the film's purported $180 million, I see where it went; but was it money well spent? Note to Hollywood: Enough already, with CGI mud and tree monsters. I don't know about you; but if I see a tree coming to life and running towards me, I'm heading for the hills.

Best Line: One line says it all, 'She (Maleficent) never understood the greed of men, but she was about to.' Maleficent takes more than its fair share of pokes at men (rather than humans in general) even disposing of the once all-important Prince Charming in favor of "something else." What's up with that?

Overall: There's plenty to like in Maleficent; and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a big hit with teenage audiences (especially females.) Jolie's terrific, and the visuals are downright impressive at times. Fairy tale purists may be surprised (or offended) but Disney has a way of validating a story (make believe or not.) I was bored in stretches (yes, I fell asleep... not all of us need a spell, you know) but not enough to overlook Jolie's brilliance. I was tempted to go with a C+, but a 45-year-old man has to know when to "give in" to the future.