Last weekend was a cornucopia of movies for the family, both recent releases and older ones we missed due to the insanity of the last year and a half. I'll focus on the Disneys first with some thoughts on Friday concerning the company's apparent change in direction in regards to female characters.
Hoo boy! Maleficent. This live-action version isn't your grandma's classic animated one.
The earliest tales of Sleeping Beauty, which has been around in some version or another for 800 years, gave a reason for the character of Maleficent to curse the princess, but Uncle Walt's original movie is pretty one-dimensional. She's painted as bitch for the sake of being one.
*** SPOILERS ***
This version gives the fairy a damn good reason for being pissed at the man who will become King Stefan. He claims he loves her, drugs her, and cuts off her wings, all in order to be named king. The rape imagery is impossible to miss.
Many folks think this makes Maleficent too dark of a movie for children. As a parent myself, I would say watch it yourself and use your common sense as to whether your children is ready. However, don't underestimate your child. This scene is a good teaching moment when it comes to trust and safety issues.
The story also addresses the redeeming power of love, though not of the romantic variety. Maleficent spies on the three pixies raising the young princess, with the intent of torturing the child and thereby her father. However, she finds herself saving Aurora again and again from the pixies' lack of attention and inexperience with humans.
The defining moment is when the little girl accepts the wounded fairy as she is. The innocence of the child thaws Maleficent's heart. She tries to revoke the curse, but is unable to.
1) Angelina Jolie's subtlety in playing this role. She makes Maleficent a sympathetic, strong, and totally understandable person.
2) Elle Fanning's Aurora throwing a totally teen temper tantrum upon learning that ALL the fairies have been lying to her for her whole life. It's a very real moment in a fantasy story, but it grounds the character, compared to the blow-up Barbie doll she was in the animated version.
3) Prince Phillip not winning the day. I believe in love, but a five-minute meet-up in the woods is lust, not love. In counterpoint to the earlier rape allegory, he refuses to kiss an unconscious girl.
4) This movie is an excellent way for parents to open conversations with their pre-teen children about the opposite sex and safety.
1) This is a PG-rated film. Use your best judgment, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it for children under eight. Like I said above, this ain't your grandma's Sleeping Beauty.
Overall, I would give it 10 out of 10 stars.
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