00:00 June 01, 2014
By: David Vicari
[Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios/Motion Pictures]

* ½ out of ****

Don't takes your kids to see Maleficent. That would be child abuse, because it's a boring special effects reel. Show them the animated Sleeping Beauty or watch Frozen for the umpteenth time. Just stay away from this live action dud.

Disney revisits the character of Maleficent (played here by Angelina Jolie), whom they created for their 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty in place of the wicked fairy godmother from the original French fairy tale. In Rashomon tradition, this is a different take on events, but I wasn't buying it. Maleficent is a classic villain, rotten to the core, and not a misunderstood and heartbroken forest fairy, as portrayed here. Instead of doing things because she is an all around evil witch, she actually does them out of sudden anger and jealousy, and then immediately regrets what she has done. Her bad actions are the equivalent of a prank phone call. After seeing this film I just wanted to leave a flaming bag of dog poop at Maleficent's castle door.

Jolie is good and there is visual splendor here, but that is not enough to keep it afloat. Sharlto Copley, as the villainous king, is stuck with a one-note character, and Elle Fanning, as Sleeping Beauty herself, Aurora, barely registers. The central character doesn't make much sense and the reworking of the story seems forced. The movie also seems like it was edited down from a longer version since the story lacks nuance and special effects battle scenes pop up often and randomly.

I just wish villains could be villains again.

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