The best thing about Robert Stromberg's Maleficent, a re-telling of Disney's 1959 Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of its titular villainess, is Angelina Jolie's seriously fierce drag. As Maleficent, Jolie sports: contacts that make her eyes look like gemstones; blood red lips; razor-sharp cheekbones; a figure-flattering, fur-trimmed cape; and a sleek skull cap out of which curl gleaming ebony horns. It's over: Everybody else in this film might as well wear a burlap sack.
Jolie is fabulously watchable, but the story is a bit of a muddle. It can't decide between dark and Disney, and the tale of the princess cursed into slumber has been re-edited into meaninglessness. The young Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Maleficent become besties, and the bad guy — Aurora's dad (portrayed by Sharlto Copley) — is disappointingly one-note. Even the Fresh Prince, enlisted to kiss the sleeping beauty, seems to have wandered in from a boy-band video.
The CGI worlds look pretty, if a tad bit familiar. (Stromberg, who won an Oscar for art direction on Avatar, clearly hit James Cameron's garage sale: "Get that deep verdant valley, and I'll throw in the rainbow-hued fireflies.")
I suspect this movie would have been better if it embraced the dark subversion it promised, rather than add the "heartwarming." Everything is sorted out by one "who was both hero and villain." How convenient.