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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Maleficent (3D) | Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Leslie Manville | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Maleficent  (3D) | Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville, Juno Temple | Review

Think you know her?  Hah!  Disney knows her better; or at least, knows how to introduce her to you.  The other side of the Sleeping Beauty saga comes to life in eye-pleasing 3D visuals and lush, misty colors, its many magical moor inhabitants filling an enchanted forest with elves, sprites, fairies, warriors made of foliage and one powerful horned, leather-winged female named Maleficent.

A beautiful fairy-child, Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy/Ella Purnell) is an orphaned tree-dweller swooping through her wondrous domain, a friend to all life forms in The Moor.  The neighboring kingdom contains humans (shiver) a war-mongering monarch (Kenneth Cranham) and no magic at all.  Each neighborhood disdains the other in an uneasy coexistence.

Maleficent meets human boy Stefan (Michael Higgins/Jackson Bews) and establishes an inter-species friendship that unfortunately languishes because Stefan is after all, human.  Blinded by greed, the adult Stefan (now Sharlto Copley) turns into a conniving social climber who horribly betrays Maleficent (now Angelina Jolie) to rise to the throne.  Hey, the old king’s on his deathbed anyway, after having tried and failed to conquer the Moor and its inhabitants once and retreating after a dose of Maleficent’s power.

With me so far?  Here’s the familiar part.

King Stefan’s daughter is born and celebrated, but Maleficent crashes the party with a terrible gift, a curse that will render the child, on her sixteenth birthday, into a perpetual slacker – asleep for an eternity. As if you could tell with a teenager. Only the kiss of True Love can break the curse, and so on and so forth.  King Stefan becomes a hostile tyrant with an improbably thick Scottish accent and puts the child named Aurora (Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, Eleanor Worthington-Cox) into hiding.

Flittle (Leslie Manville) Thistletwit (Juno Temple) and Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) are three dimwitted fairies charged with Aurora’s care until one day after she turns 16.  They mean well, but the task is far beyond them, and the little girl grows up exploring her forest home unattended and thinking that she’s an orphan in the care of her “aunties.”

Here’s where the whole thing veers into uncharted territory. (No spoilers)

Maleficent, along with her crow/man assistant Diaval (Sam Riley) is never far away, spying on the child, whom she refers to as “beastie” with until the two meet one day when Aurora (now Elle Fanning) approaches her 16th birthday, of course.

Everything after that is a surprise, detouring off of the familiar fairytale path with a vengeance, which is just Maleficent’s cup of tea, or green smoke, if you will.  Yes, there’s a dragon.

Director Robert Stromberg, making his directorial debut, and screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) team up to explain Maleficent’s background of betrayal, ultimately accomplishing the near impossible:  making the seemingly heartless harpy into a sympathetic loner.  It takes skill to get us to root for someone who can curse a baby don’t you think?  The two pull it off in a manner that does not depend on schmaltz or sentiment as much as incremental glimpses into a complex, misunderstood “villain.”  Or is she?

Jolie has the presence (enhanced by twin-peak cheekbones, tri-color eyes, blood-red lips, and arrow point ears) to fill a room with regally wicked glee.  She’s the one to watch; Manville, Temple and Staunton, portraying the ditzy trio of fairies that provide slapstick filler for the film are bumbling irritants, as is Copley’s violent king.

Luckily, it’s Jolie’s film.  A producer and doting mom, she cast daughter Vivienne as a young Aurora.  Talk about role models; this is one actress that can bestow actual roles in addition to filling some challenging ones herself.  And she looks good in horns, always a plus for Disney and almost a requirement in Hollywood.


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