Glamazon Angelina Jolie is devilishly good as a tricked sprite who seeks payback.
MALEFICENT directed by Robert Stromberg, written by Linda Woolverton, with Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Imelda Staunton. A Walt Disney release. 97 minutes. Opens Friday (May 30). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN
Who cares if Angelina Jolie scares the shit out of the kids as the wronged fairy Maleficent? Grown-ups will get a charge out of this Sleeping Beauty variation that applies the Wicked formula to the well-loved story.
Jolie plays a happy sprite with extraordinary powers who defends her gorgeous land from venal humans. When she's betrayed by the neighbouring prince (Sharlto Copley) - who later takes the throne - Maleficent, with the help of her ever-morphing servant Diaval (Sam Riley), lays a curse on the king's daughter (Elle Fanning): she'll fall into a deep sleep after pricking her finger, and can be woken only by a true love's kiss.
The story, originally about evil visiting an innocent kingdom, turns into a meditation on revenge and regret. "Be careful what you wish for" is the main message.
Iconic star (and executive producer) Jolie does everything she can to deliver a sympathetic performance. But pointy-eared Maleficent, all sneers and hisses as she hatches her plan, is not a character children will be drawn to. The three feuding fairies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville) the king assigns to rear the princess in safety are obviously designed to give the kids some relief, but they can't stop the film from going to a very sad place once Maleficent seeks vengeance.
Never mind. This movie is spectacular to look at - 3D's not wasted here, and you can tell that first-time director Robert Stromberg has 94 visual effects credits, including Life Of Pi. It also puts a glorious twist on the kiss that's supposed to wake Princess Aurora.
Breakneck pacing, too.
Big fun - and definitely for grown-ups.