Directed by Robert Stromberg
Disney, out now
Spearheading Disney’s new slew of live-action remakes of their animated classics (Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella follows next year) the title might be a sub-editor’s nightmare and a reviewer’s dream – Maleficent isn’t magnificent – but channel your inner princess and there’s much to enjoy.
Just how much you enjoy this film probably depends on how willing you are to accept this rewriting of the Sleeping Beauty myth. If you balked at Wicked’s humanising of The Wicked Witch of the West then you might struggle with the premise that the great and evil Maleficent was actually just a good fairy gone bad… and with some justification. The battles are Narnia-lite and some of the younger performers are not convincing, but it’s Angelina that we’ve paid our money for, and she is having the time of her life. This is panto villain to the max and no piece of scenery is left unchewed as she camps across the kingdom. But it works. Angie channels her Grendel’s mother from Beowulf and pouts like Tim Curry’s horny Darkness in Legend.
This is a revisionist retelling of a classic fairy tale, and like Frozen before it, it’s made with a clear feminist message to the impressionable princesses in the audience – don’t hang around waiting for your Prince Charming. James Newton-Howard’s score is lush, with some beautiful choral work, and the CGI is as good as you’d expect from a big-budget Disney movie. And if you don’t smile as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo ident becomes the CGI Sleeping Beauty’s castle of this movie then you’re clearly not in the mood for fun.
At 97 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome either, using the time wisely to set up and deliver the familiar tale with 21st century twists. Far better than the behind-the-scenes dramas and sniffy reviews would suggest – and that’s no fairy tale.
Verdict: Angelina’s cheekbones could slice ham, which is kind of appropriate. But what ham. 7/10