Jolie Is Maleficent's Saving Grace

Revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty divides critics
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2014 11:21 AM CDT

Maleficent, Disney's new revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty, opens this weekend, and critics seem to agree on one thing: Angelina Jolie is stunning in the title role. But they're divided on how good the movie around her actually is—it's currently scoring 47% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what people are saying:

  • "Ultimately Maleficent is a showcase, flawed but serviceable, for one of the most charismatic actors currently on screen," Moira Macdonald at the Seattle Times writes. Jolie is simply captivating. "It’s hard to think of another performer whose side-eye seems as if it could fell trees, whose cheekbones (aided here by razor-like prosthetics) could slice a feather, who makes it seem perfectly natural that, when she walks, stone walls crumble in her wake. … Just try to look away."

  • In an era of gloomy revisionism, "this movie dares to delight in some of the same elements of fairy tales actual children delight in: magic and witches and kings ... and yes, goddammit, fairies," writes Dana Stevens at Slate. "I wished my 8-year-old was by my side, and that doesn’t happen often in this age of bombastic, overlong, mayhem-laden kids’ entertainments." She also appreciated the way this "mildly feminist" tale "recognizes the complexity and significance of love between women."
  • First-time director Robert Stromberg is an Oscar-winning art director, and it shows, because the movie is gorgeous, writers Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. "If only looks were everything." Sadly, "Maleficent is nothing more than a diorama disguised as a movie, a flimsy cardboard thingie that feels untouched by human hands." By the time Sleeping Beauty falls into her coma, "many audience members around me looked similarly afflicted."
  • "Disney missed a golden opportunity," laments Claudia Puig at USA Today. The movie has "visual panache" but it suffers from bad writing. "Maleficent's sympathetic side feels tacked-on," her woman-wronged origin sadly cliched. The "cobbled-together plot meanders more than a stroll through an enchanted forest," yet winds up being predictable anyway; "anyone over 7 can figure out where the story is going."
(More movie review stories.)

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