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Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Film Review | Maleficent

Linda Woolverton’s semi-feminist retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, directed with vim and wit by Robert Stromberg, is from the point of view of the curser rather than the cursed. The original yarn, first adapted by Disney for the screen in 1959, is about a wicked witch who curses the princess Aurora to prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday and fall into a deep sleep, only to be awakened by true love’s kiss. The animated movie retained the basic elements of the fairy tale and left no doubt about the dastardliness of Maleficent and her raven sidekick. Angelina Jolie can’t match the hideous cackle of Maleficent’s voice artiste Eleanor Audley, but she doesn’t need to. Maleficent is the backstory of a witch who actually isn’t one.

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Elle Fanning in a still from the film

This is a film about second chances, and Maleficent and her pet raven Diaval, who assumes human form to become Sam Riley, have several of them when they track down Aurora (Elle Fanning), who has been spirited away by three dithering good fairies to a forest hut for her protection. This is also a film about role reversals, so Aurora turns out to be the younger version of Maleficent, takes the black-robed one to be her fairy godmother, and befriends Diaval as one might a stray dog.

Stromberg, a veteran visual effect designer, matches Woolverton’s flights of fancy with imaginative backdrops and adorable jungle creatures. There is true magic in the staging of the striking special effects, but not enough in the characterization, especially of Stefan’s one-note king, and the good fairies, played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple. A literal and symbolic loss of a key power early on dictates the film’s half-subversive and half-safe tilt.

The reboot’s real interest is in conjuring up a tender relationship between a fairy, a princess and a crow, with enough twists to save a well-worn fairy tale from the curse of overuse.

Maleficent released in 3D and 3D IMAX on Friday.

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