Striding around in her horns and black cloak and with cheekbones to die for, Angelina Jolie is quite simply spellbinding as the evil fairy Maleficent – who isn’t really evil at all, but simply misunderstood – in Disney’s epic re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty.
Although it comes across as Lord of the Rings Lite in places – with a prologue that seems to last most of the movie and a fey fairytale kingdom not a million miles removed from Middle Earth – this is an ambitious and strikingly good-looking fable which finishes off with a nicely empowering message for little girls about women doing it for themselves.
The action sequences are expertly handled – and include some awe-inspiring flying sequences, a couple of brutal battles and a palace showdown with a fire-breathing dragon. Incompetent fairies Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville and Juno Temple supply some cute slapstick interludes and if Sharlto Copley’s bad King Stefan and Brenton Thwaites’s bland Prince Phillip never rise above the level of caricature, Sam Riley’s shape-shifting crow and Elle Fanning’s sunny Aurora do well to register opposite Jolie’s magnificent star turn.
While it lacks the crowdpleasing songs of Frozen, or the wry humour of Tangled, this is a doggedly magical movie-going experience which — in keeping with all great Disney movies — should give the very young a few nightmares when they get a load of Jolie’s prosthetic cheekbones.
Certificate PG. Runtime 97 mins. Director Robert Stromberg.
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