Category Archives: Family

Maleficent (2014)

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Maleficent

Maleficent

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. ~Walt Disney Pictures

This one is tough for me. I am a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty; the fairy tale, the ballet..and the Disney animated feature. Maleficent has long been my favorite of the Disney villains so I am a bit protective of “her” story.

I am admittedly a fan of alternate histories, and not such a fan of alternate fairy tales (or alternate fiction of any kind, really. I guess because, “What if Hitler didn’t make it into Poland?” is an interesting study but “What if this author who wrote this story didn’t really mean to have this thing they wrote actually happen?” seems a bit of an insult to the author.*) Now you know my bias going in to this film.

That said: It is a gorgeous film. They create a world that is every bit as magical as you would expect from a big-budget Disney outing. You can see several instances where the filmmakers were aiming at shot-for-shot replication of the animated scenes, which I really enjoyed.

Maleficent, animated

Angelina Jolie is delicious. Delightfully wicked and charmingly vindictive, qualities one hopes for in a villain. (Also charming was real-life daughter, Vivienne, as a very young Princess Aurora.) I appreciate Jolie’s commitment to preserving Maleficent’s “look”, if not her original evil

The story, however, is a letdown. I hoped to come away with greater affection for all the characters, especially Maleficent, whom I have adored for so long. I was disappointed. In an attempt to “humanize” or soften or simply bend Maleficent’s story, they ruined her. If not for Angelina Jolie’s performance, there would be nothing left of her at all.

My boyfriend, being male and having only sons, was not especially familiar with the Sleeping Beauty story. He also has no problem with changes to well-loved children’s tales. Therefore, he would give it 4 stars on a standard scale.

So there is your yardstick: If you are not familiar with the original source material, you will find this a much more enjoyable story. If you love the tale of a cursed Sleeping Beauty and her handsome prince, you may find it less so.

My Word of Mouth Scale rating reflects the number of old Disney fans I have in my circles.

* Yes, I realize the original story was tweaked for both the ballet & the Disney cartoon. Those changes were mostly ‘cosmetic’ and didn’t alter the general theme

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 49%; Audience 75%

FairyTale: A True Story (1997)

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FairyTale

Fairy Tale: A True Story

Based on factual accounts, this is the story of two young girls that, somehow, have the ability to take pictures of winged beings… which certainly causes quite a stir throughout England during the time of the first World War. Everyone, except the girls who think it’s quite normal, is excited about this “photographic proof” that fairies exist… even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini pay the girls a visit.

Written by BOB STEBBINS

 

I am familiar with the story of the Cottingley Fairies, and so I was quite keen to see this film. I find it fascinating that two children were able to perpetrate a hoax that fooled not just family & friends, but a nation – and several experts in photography…and spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of their earliest, and most consistent, proponents.

Cottingley FairyThe movie presents our young fairy hunters as younger than the real Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, and slightly closer in age. It is a bit of understandable artistic license, hard for modern audiences to imagine a 16 year-old embracing the wonder of fairies.

The visuals are quite beautiful, colorful and deliciously saturated. I really enjoyed seeing two of my favorites, Harvey Keitel as Houdini and Peter O’Toole as Conan Doyle, among this fine cast.

It is a magical children’s movie with a more serious backdrop, so it remains entertaining for adults, as well.

Bonus: Paul McGann plays Elsie’s father, and it’s always nice to see him 🙂


Rotten tomatoes: Critics 52%; Audience 62%