'Maleficent' is mostly magnificent

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comMay 29, 2014 

Film Review Maleficent

This image released by Disney shows Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, left, in a scene with her daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, portraying Young Aurora, in a scene from "Maleficent." (AP Photo/Disney, Frank Connor)


Maleficent is the baddest fairy of them all. Doing a heavy rewrite of the classic Sleeping Beauty, Angelina Jolie redefines and gives unheard of depth and width to an until now fairly shallow fairytale character.

The movie begins with Maleficent and Stefan meeting as children. She's the de-facto ruler of a kingdom of fairies, pixies and other-worldly creatures. He's a young thief living next door in the kingdom of men. They become fast friends and fall in love.

But as an adult, he's power mad and greedy. When the king of men attacks Maleficent's kingdom, war breaks out. The men are easily defeated. Later, Stefan seeks her out to patch things up. She buys his deception, and he double-crosses her.

To say how would ruin the surprise and one of the film's twists.

After the double-cross, Stefan marries the king's daughter, inherits the kingdom and they have a daughter. Her name is Aurora. You know the gist of the story from there.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton mixes the Brothers Grimm's late 1800s fairytale with that of Charles Perrault, who put it to paper in the 1600s, and the version Walt Disney's writers did in 1959, and makes it her own. Most of the story and its unique twist works.

So does Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. She has always been able to use her incredible beauty and hard-edged facial features to be stronger, tougher and badder than her male co-stars. That doesn't change here. What does is the addition of a motherly softness we haven't seen before from her.

It's a nice touch in a movie lacking nice touches.

Jolie gets decent but not all that impressive support from Elle Fanning (We Bought a Zoo) and Sharlto Copely (District 9), who plays the evil Stefan. Sam Riley and Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Leslie Manville try unsuccessfully to put a little humor into a dry plot.

The lack of humor doesn't matter. Neither does an overuse of effects and what looks like indecision as to whether the movie should be animated or live action. Director Robert Stromberg -- who is a visual effects expert with credentials that include The Life of Pi, The Hunger Games, Pan's Labyrinth and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- ineffectively uses both.

Sometimes the look is gorgeous. At other times, it's cheesy. That doesn't matter either. The movie is owned by Jolie, who gives one of her best-ever performances.

Director: Robert Stromberg

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Leslie Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated PG for mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

-- Cook up a comment or two and send them to Mr. Movie at www.tricityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.

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