You may find this hard to believe but I’m not a huge Sleeping Beauty fan. Or Bambi. Or Snow White. I’m sure that comes as a shock. (There really is a need for a sarcastic font, isn’t there?)
I do have a cautious opinion on modern/updates on classic films. I’m not against them but the pressure is on to deliver something spectacular. This is why The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, and Casablanca will probably never be remade.
Maleficent technically isn’t a live-action remake of the classic Sleeping Beauty. It’s supposed to be the rest of the story ala Wicked is to the Wizard of Oz. (And for the record, Wicked is absolutely incredible. Go see it whenever you have a chance.)
There are actually a lot of parallels between Wicked and Maleficent. Both take a kid’s fairy tale and add a layer of gray to the moral story. Just as the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t always so wicked, Maleficent wasn’t always this cold, heartless fairy. Both must learn how to deal with a broken heart, both create unholy messes due to their anger, and both deal with the consequences in a broken but redemptive manner. Both learn that true love is deeper than merely infatuation and physical attraction. The major difference between the two is Maleficent tells her story without bursting into song.
It could be argued that Maleficent should have been a bit darker but this is Disney. They were shooting for a family film that didn’t wig out the young ones. And they couldn’t have picked a better actor to play Her Royal Darkness than Angelina Jolie. How do you center a family movie around a character that curses babies and make her likable? Cast Angelina Jolie is step 1.
Can you imagine anyone else playing this role? You can’t. And if you can – you’re blind, deaf, and dumb. Jolie is perfect. The transformation of her once her heart is broken and wings is stolen is downright scary. As the Scriptures say – Hell hath no fury like Angelina Jolie scorned. She’s powerfully creepy beautiful and I mean that in the best way possible.
It’s a great film for grade-schoolers and give parents many talking points. Like how people are a sum of their history. Yes, we are responsible for our decisions but these decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Our history, our hurts and how well we learn how to forgive play a major role in the kinds of people we become. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to note that Disney once again – a’la Brave and Frozen – reframes the definition of true love. It’s refreshing.
Maleficent is a good family watch and a pleasant ‘rest of the story’ to the classic Sleepy Beauty.