Disney’s Maleficent is the latest reimagining of a Disney children’s tale as a rated PG film—more palatable for adults, but not quite as intense as a PG-13 or higher film. It is based on the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, my favorite as a young child (I mean, it has a dragon! What more do you want?) Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, Elle Fanning as the Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Sharlto Copley as King Stefan.
The story begins with the younger years of Maleficent, a female human-sized fairy living in the fairy moor right next door to the human kingdom. One day she finds a young human boy who is trying to steal a small gem from fairyland. She makes him give it back and the two of them become friends. As time goes by, their relationship deepens. When Maleficent turns sixteen, Stefan gives her what he says is true love’s kiss. Unfortunately, things don’t last and he becomes an infrequent visitor lured away by the honors, riches, and desires that dominate the human world. Maleficent is hurt, of course, but she survives. She goes on with her life. But soon the king of the human kingdom turns his eye toward her moor and conflict ensues. This conflict forms the backdrop of the entire Sleeping Beauty story. But it’s Sleeping Beauty with a twist. Maleficent is set up as a sympathetic character for the movie.
Strengths: the acting was good, the plot good, and the special effects were quite remarkable. I couldn’t find any logical holes in a single viewing. The life lessons were decent; the message about love well-taken. Weaknesses: my biggest problem with the film is that since it is based on Sleeping Beauty it would likely draw a very young crowd in spite of the PG rating. It’s not as bad as a PG-13 rating, but even so, redefining Maleficent as a misunderstood heroine will likely be confusing to the very young who are familiar with the original tale. Further, I felt that Disney missed an opportunity to reconcile King Stefan with Maleficent—such would have made a powerful tale of forgiveness that would have been very instructive. As it was, the ending was okay, but perhaps a little dark for the very young.
Anyway, I’ll give Disney’s Maleficent four stars out of five with a warning that some of the plot may be too mature for the very young. Still, it was a good movie.