Don’t let the title of Disney’s revisionist fairytale sequel fool you. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, played by Angelina Jolie, is hardly “evil” in this film. But her mortal nemesis, Queen Ingrith of Ulstead (Michelle Pfeiffer), does assume the villainous mantle in her scheme to annihilate all Moor magical beings and seize their verdant lands. Although the trailer alludes to Maleficent returning to the dark side of magic, it’s more about her role as an outcast and wounded mother-figure coming to grips with an adult child’s struggle for independence.
Equal parts dark fantasy and royal family drama, after a brief kidnapping scene of a Moor creature by human thieves, the scene cuts away to a naive Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) of Ulstead proposing to the equally gullible Aurora (Elle Fanning) with Maleficent at odds with the union. As godmother and guardian to the former “sleeping beauty,” Maleficent still harbors distrust toward her human counterparts and with good reason as the narrative unfolds.
Transfixing and ageless, Jolie and Pfeiffer command the silver screen at the uncomfortable in-laws dinner introduction. When Pfeiffer’s character wickedly provokes Maleficent by claiming how Aurora will “finally get the love of a real mother,” the green flames ignite and the epic battle between maternal powers begin. The CGI landscape and adorable creatures enchant and charm viewers, but the real star of this production is the costume design and make-up. Unfortunately, the script underuses Jolie’s intoxicating presence. Instead, the audience is treated to occasional flimsy dialogue, tedious battles, and a pipe organ “death” recital so agonizing, I literally cringed in my seat.
But, my 8-year-old guest with an affection for furry fliers, thoroughly enjoyed this Disney film and “loved Maleficent’s magic and bat wings.” And to a target audience of candy-obsessed youngsters looking for a family-friendly frightening flick (say that three times!) for the Halloween season, this visually decadent and mildly wicked film might be the perfect complement.
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Actors: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Harris Dickinson
Director: Joachim Rønning
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Adventure, Family
Runtime: 118 minutes
Rated: PG for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images