OK, so the wicked fairy Maleficent did a fairly-awful thing when she cursed the baby Aurora in the story of Sleeping Beauty. But the poor thing was sorely tried and spent the rest of her life desperately trying to make amends. At least, that’s the new revisionism from Disney in this epic tale of reputation-rescuing starring Angelina Jolie as the misjudged, misunderstood perp – and good fun it is too.
If rewriting fairy stories is the in thing, you can’t help feeling that Disney would be on more interesting ground if they started showing us the seedy side of Cinders or the shabby side of Snow White rather than resuscitating and reworking its villains. But a strong performance from Jolie keeps this particular film nicely afloat for all you can’t help wishing that it was just a little bit more gripping at times. It all starts with Maleficent before she got her ‘mal’, a joyous fairy with lovely wings flitting around a wooded, sugar-sweet Eden populated with all the weird creatures that computers animators are convinced we will all find cute. Into this idyll, however, creeps man, source of all evil, in this case in the incarnation of a seemingly-innocent little boy who works his charm on the definitely-innocent Maleficent.
Her tragedy is that he grows up into an ambitious would-be king with an appallingly dodgy Scots accent and absolutely no scruples whatsoever. Assuring his succession, he de-wings Maleficent – and there you have it, the reason, momentarily losing her icy cool, she curses the king’s baby.
Baby Aurora is sent into protective custody, growing into a sweet little thing (Elle Fanning), constantly smiling and with a permanent look of wonder on her face – enough to provoke Maleficent’s crise de conscience. None of it’s actually terribly exciting, but it’s watchable enough.