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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

After bringing Maddox to college, Angie visits with other parents at a campus mixer.

Synopsis: A young woman’s godmother opposes her marriage ….Also… Maleficent of the Moors gets lured into battle.

Angelina Jolie is back onscreen as Maleficent in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Yes, it’s a terrible title. Walt Disney’s classic animated feature, Sleeping Beauty (1959) introduced children to the cheery story of an evil sorceress who curses an infant princess, Aurora, to fall into a coma when she’s a teen; if she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel. (Insert Freudian analysis here.) This witchery is all because she didn’t get an invite to Aurora’s christening party.

2014’s live action Maleficent is from the point of view of Maleficent. Angelina Jolie knocks it out of the park in the title role, showing depth and sporting prosthetic cheekbones that sharply jut from her striking face. (She also has super sharp shoulder bones that look great with her fashion forward gowns.) We get to see Angie’s daughter Vivienne as toddler Aurora and a teen Elle Fanning as the prospective Sleeping Beauty. We learn that Mal isn’t really evil, but has reason to hate Aurora’s father. During the course of the story she becomes fond and even protective of Aurora. Ultimately, she comes across as a loner with anger management issues. But def not a “Mistress of Evil.”

Disney insists on upping the scary factor in the sequel by dubbing her a Mistress of Evil. Dear God, would this be an R-rated account of atrocities and crimes against humanity and fairie folk? Thankfully, the answer is ‘No.’ It’s more like a junior version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, with much of its running time spent gearing up for warfare and a tremendous battle. Except this movie isn’t thrilling. I do wish Viggo Mortensen had made an appearance as Aragorn. (Who knows, maybe their lands adjoin.) He would’ve made a good love interest for Angie.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil could have been a better movie if it leaned into camp. But we only get a few sly bon mots from the title character. I guess it’s a “family” movie, but it’s too intense and dragged-out for kids under the age of ten. In spite of the dull yet violent storyline, Angelina Jolie’s star power should fill theater seats. In fact, let’s talk about Angie…

K, first off, Angie’s last live action starring role was in By the Sea (2015), a movie she wrote, directed and produced. As Movie Loon is sure Angie fans know, her co-star was then- husband Brad Pitt. The parents of six children together, their relationship came to a close when Brad allegedly got violent with their teen son Maddox. The family’s road has been arduous to say the least, with: counseling, Brad’s admission of too much alcohol consumption, Angie’s contention that he wasn’t contributing enough child support money and chaperoned time with the kids for Brad. Phew!

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Angie shows up at Brad’s lawyers’ office with some demands of her own.

It probably wasn’t hard for Angie to slip into her morose role as Maleficent. Everyone in the theater could feel for Angie when her character tells her goddaughter that, “Love doesn’t always end well.” Sob!

The movie begins with Aurora, whom Mal made Queen of the Moors, trying to conduct some sort of town meeting with the faeries and mystical moor creatures. At best she seems ineffectual. At worst, dim-witted. Anyway, the moors look like a more colorful Pandora — the lands in Avatar. I think James Cameron would approve of the twinkling flowers and porcupine elf. But the mushroom-headed fairies are a bit much; sort of like the fungi equivalent of Strawberry Shortcake dollies.

Young lovers Aurora and Prince Philip of Ulstead want to get married. They are a ho-hum couple and will probably honeymoon in Dullsville. Angie– I mean Mal– says NO! I don’t remember if it’s because Mal doesn’t trust humans, thinks Aurora can do better or should take her own sweet time to settle down. Just like Angie.

But Mal agrees to make peace and meet Philip’s parents for Aurora’s sake. In a horn shaming scene, Aurora asks Mal to cover her wickedly cool horns with a veil before meeting the prospective in-laws at their castle. Boo!

Angie has a very good foil & foe in this movie; Michelle Pfeiffer as Prince Philip’s mom Queen Ingrith, played with devilish delight. Michelle P.  looks great, costumed in crystals and pearls, with cheekbones that soar even without prosthetics. Mal tries to make nice at the dinner, but it’s like the Real Housewives of Fairytale Land because the Queen keeps throwing shade at Mal. The dinner ends disastrously, with fighting and smashed tableware. Just like the Bravo network show.

Angie filmed Maleficent 2 during the summer of 2018 in England. Back in LA, a judge had ruled that Angie had to give Brad more time with the kids while she filmed in England. (Except for Maddox, he didn’t have to see Brad.) According to the visitation schedule, which probably cost about a million dollars to hammer out, Brad would visit with the kids in London when they weren’t being tutored in a trailer near the movie set. I imagine it wasn’t the kind of rundown old trailer one would expect to see in Roughtimes, USA, but, rather a luxury caravan chockablock with Apple computers and granite countertops.

The painfully detailed schedule also allowed Brad to host the kids (except for the reluctant Maddox) back in LA. Thankfully the children had mandated time with counselors to discuss their complicated feelings about dealing with divorce and the bizarre carnival that is having two very famous movie stars as parents.

Angie’s eventful summer of juggling work and motherhood goes a long way in explaining why she seems like she is in a trance for most of the movie. At first, she just looks preoccupied when Elle F. as Aurora natters on about how she wants Mal to like her fiancé and his parents. Angie stares off into space, seemingly wondering how she and Brad ended up out-of-love. Fortunately she only has to toss off a few cynical lines before she finds herself awakening in some sort of blue screen cave nest. She wanders a bit and then…

Hark! She is now in a Pandoraesque landscape like the one where humanoid Na’vi  soar over mountains on the backs of the dragon-like banshee. Behold Chiwetel Ejiofor as Conoll a winged and horned humanoid similar to Maleficent. He explains that they are Dark Fey like her, made refugees by humans. Whu???? She looks on in wonder like an Amish elder at Burning Man, for there are Mal-like peoples of all races about. When she sees the young practicing flying, you can tell that Angie wants to adopt them. And I guess that this gets Angie thinking about her kids because then she seems to go into a trance, that no director or wise, peaceable Conoll/ Chiwetel can break. She’ll spend the rest of the movie looking like she’s under a spell with thoughts of Brad and the kids swirling in her mind. On occasion, the script requires her to act angry at Michelle P./ Queen Ingrith for trying to make war with the faeries and replace her as Aurora’s mother figure. I’m sure it was no problem for Angie to call to mind the treacherous machinations of Brad and his lawyers for her performance.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t match the sly fun and fairy tale darkness of Maleficent. It’s pretty much A) Mal doesn’t want Aurora to get married and B) the wicked Queen & future in-law is a war mongerer and wanna be genocidist of faeries and fey.  But the cast is appealing and designer Ellen Mirojnick’s costumes are inspired. And it’s good to have Angelina Jolie back on screen. Fingers crossed on Brad & Angie’s co-parenting. For the kids’ sake… and so Brad & Angie can be untroubled while they are making movies for us.

Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:  C+

Cut to the Chase:  Worth a look if you like fairy tales, Angelina Jolie or Michelle Pfeiffer. The shortcomings of the film will probably go unnoticed by older kids who are  enthusiastic about seeing the film.

Humor Highlight:  How wonderfully earnest Chiwetel Ejiofor is in the movie; no one can accuse him of just phoning it in.

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