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Saturday, June 28, 2014

I, Maleficunt!

I just knew any movie about evil fairies and queens would be my kind of entertainment! And this being NYC Pride, I thought it was high time to watch Disney's Maleficent.

In perhaps the grandest chew-up-the-scenery star vehicle since Faye Dunaway did Mommie Dearest, Angelina Jolie gives good lip as one of Walt Disney's most popular villains (from the full-length Disney animated film, Sleeping Beauty, which I first saw as a child at Paterson, NJ's old Garden Theater with my mom, back when I was innocent; just like young Maleficent herself).

Naughty girls need love too might be the message of Maleficent. Jolie told the press that she put her costume on in front of her kids and acted out her part. If they laughed or cried, she knew that's how she'd play it on-screen. Adopted third-world children come in handy! Oh, and by the way, the film had a director, Robert Stromberg.

The CGI/action sequences certainly overwhelm the drama in this film. Yet, Joli manages to dominate. I could relate to her character big time. Love betrayed leaves you stone cold. This is certainly a blueprint of how to become a hardened bitch, not that I need one. But the ultimate message is how love softens. Very Disney.

Certainly herein, Maleficent and Sleeping Beauty (Araura) have a more complicated relationship than in Sleeping Beauty. I totally related to Joli's character. I know what it's like to let anger and hate take over. But love is the healer. And the film promotes that concept, especially when it comes to "true love's kiss" at the climax.

Every element from Disney's Sleeping Beauty is here (the three fairy godmothers (very cute), the fire-breathing dragon, the cottage in the woods). Severe revisionism was necessary to turn Maleficent into a sympathetic character with a happy ending. For example, in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent herself becomes the dragon that the prince slays.

Joli asserts her characterization through a morass of f/x and a dank color palette. With a British accent, she delivers some maliciously great lines in high dudgeon. Like "Grand celebration for a baby? How wonderful!"

Maleficent is infinitely more interesting after its set-up and once it catches up to the Grimm fairy tale in its later two-thirds. Joli strolls through this retelling with a purely camp performance and attitude. Like the recent Disney hit, Frozen, it's a morality tale with a feminist stance.

Princesses, like moi, you don't need no damned prince. Wake up!

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