Nominated for Best Costume Design (Anna B. Sheppard, Jane Clive) at the 87th Annual Academy Awards
Oh, those cheekbones…they deserve a movie all their own. A little make-up wizardry enhancement, and Angelina Jolie’s already prominent features become their own character. This is a compliment, by the way, because they are a joy to observe. And the film “Maleficent”, with Ms. Jolie in the role of the title character, is kinda fun too. Two immediate observations came to mind though, while finally catching this on Blu-ray disc. First, I bet it looked incredible in IMAX 3D, and secondly–it’s mercifully short (just 97 minutes with credits). So, while the story of the powerful fairy, being spurned as a child by the ambitious, and eventual king, Stefan (the capable, but decidedly one-note Sharlto Copley, as the adult version), and going on to reign as the dark force of the magical forest is occasionally delightful–it’s also mostly bells and whistles. When Maleficent’s wings are literally clipped, the grounded fairy becomes a sort of godmother to the cursed princess, Aurora (Elle Fanning, sort of giving us the distaff version of “Boyhood” with her career, since her “I Am Sam” debut in 2001), who has been banished from Stefan’s kingdom by Maleficent herself. It’s revisionist “Sleeping Beauty” folks, with the whole female empowerment bent, a la “Wicked” of the Broadway stage.
There’s enough candy for the eye here, but the story (screenplay by Linda Woolverton) has its slow spots–even at a truncated length. I guess you’ll either be annoyed by the trio of pixies–or you’ll adore them. Having a couple of marvelous actresses portraying two of them (Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville) helps (24-year-old Juno Temple rounds out the trio). First-time director Robert Stromberg is game, if overburdened–he cut his teeth, after all, as a two-time Oscar-winning art director. But Jolie carries the ball with her incredible stature and marvelous movie-star presence. It’s Angelina’s show, and with the film’s nearly 760 million worldwide box office take, she proves to be some centerpiece. However, “Maleficent” is just good enough, to sneak through with a passing grade. But if Disney barrels through with the proposed sequel, methinks it’ll all be downhill from there. Better to quit while they’re ahead.
next review up: “Finding Vivian Maier”