'Maleficent' Review Roundup: Angelina Jolie's Performance Earns Rave Reviews, The Film Does Not
Angelina Jolie’s take on a classic Disney villain, Maleficent, opens on Friday, May 30, and has received decidedly mediocre reviews from critics; Jolie’s performance, on the other hand, has received rave reviews.
Maleficent Gets Mediocre Reviews
Maleficent was originally described as a retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, this time from the villain’s point of view. The problem with this retelling, most reviewers agree, is that the film was made to have a PG rating, allowing it only to scratch the surface of its complex titular character.
“Here, Maleficent’s sympathetic side feels tacked-on. No doubt the filmmakers figured fans of Beauty and the Beast and Wicked would be enthralled by a conflicted character. But Maleficent’s back story and psyche are more vague and less developed than those of the Beast or Wicked’s Elphaba,” wrote USA Today’s Claudia Puig.
Puig commends Jolie’s menacing performance, but complains that the Oscar-winning actress simply did not have enough to do and that the writing failed to create an engaging backstory for Maleficent, leaving her evil nature still somewhat arbitrary.
“Disney missed a golden opportunity to tell a bewitching story and instead gives audiences a muddled revisionist tale with stunning visuals,” Puig concludes.
Andrew Barker of Variety agrees, writing that the film is, visually, quite impressive, though it lacks substance.
“Uncertain of tone, and bearing visible scarring from what one imagines were multiple rewrites, the film fails to probe the psychology of its subject or set up a satisfying alternate history, but it sure is nice to look at for 97 minutes,” Barker wrote.
EW’s Keith Staskiewicz wrote in his critique that the story was often uninteresting and not well thought out:
“Unfortunately, the story is more than a bit of a muddle, a string of sequences that shuttle characters back and forth between the film’s sole two locations, a castle and a magic forest.”
Maleficent did manage to earn a glowing review from The Hollywood Reporter’s Sheri Linden, who was more forgiving of the plot holes and pacing problems.
“A few bumpy patches notwithstanding, the new feature is an exquisitely designed, emotionally absorbing work of dark enchantment,” Linden wrote.
Linden applauded Maleficent’s take on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale, congratulating it for making both Maleficent and Princess Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, into full-fledged characters instead of an evil devil and a damsel in distress.
“There’s a diamond-in-the-rough aspect to Aurora’s loveliness; she’s no conventional Disney Princess but a child of nature with a strong sense of justice and an innate toughness – qualities that link her to the young Maleficent,” Linden explained.
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