mon 10/08/2020

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil review - fantasy follow-up falls flat | reviews, news & interviews

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil review - fantasy follow-up falls flat

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil review - fantasy follow-up falls flat

Angelina Jolie's charms aren't enough to carry Disney sequel

Angelina Jolie is back again with those cut-glass cheekbones and ink-black wings, reprising her role as the self-proclaimed ‘Mistress of Evil’, in Joachim Rønning’s nauseating sequel to the 2014 live-action spin on Sleeping Beauty. 

As the first film taught us, Maleficent isn’t evil, she’s misunderstood. Rat-bag men sold her out, and ever since she’s been on warry of humans, except for her god-child Aurora. The legend we knew was just propaganda. All Maleficent wants is to protect her fellow fairies from the war-mongering ways of men. 

This time around, it’s not a man that’s the problem. It’s Prince Phillip’s (Harris Dickinson) witch of a mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Secretly, Ingrith wants to start a war between the magical folk of the Moor and the kingdom of Ulstead. This ruins the announcement that Aurora (Elle Fanning, pictured below left) and her flaxen-haired, wet-blanket, hubby-to-be are getting hitched. Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Sam Riley in Maleficent: Mistress of EvilAs is often the problem with these revisionist fairy tales, a good story gets over boiled, and things get messy. It’s why Kenneth Branagh’s ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach to Cinderella (2015) worked so well. Here, there’s a goblin gunpowder plot; pixie-poaching; and a pseudo-Neverland of bird-folk. The plot is overstuffed and under-baked, trying desperately to kindle that spark of Disney magic, that never arrives. 

There’s a sense with this sequel that Disney still is wrestling with how to tell stories about out-dated princesses and princes, to contemporary audiences. Maleficent tries hard to offer inspiring female role models, and for the most part, it does, but it’s marketed and callow in its approach. 

Thankfully there’s still Jolie, who remains deliriously wicked with that scarlet smile and malicious glint in those green eyes. It’s all so camp, so silly, but her performance is what makes this unwanted sequel just about watchable. 

And then there’s Pfeiffer, who’s equally panto in her performance, matching Jolie hit for hit in her comic timing. Like when, during a meeting of in-law’s, bitchy banter escalates to black magic in a glorious showdown of Hollywood queens. 

But these few moments of fun aren’t enough to save this flat-feeling sequel from sending you to sleep. 

@JosephDAWalsh

The plot is overstuffed and under-baked, trying desperately to kindle that spark of Disney magic, that never arrives

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters