Should have stayed in bed: Sleeping Beauty update is luke-warm

Melissa York
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Cert PG | Two Stars

DISNEY’S live action remake of Sleeping Beauty is an inversion of the fairytale told from the perspective of Maleficent. The cackling horned villain, who spends most of the animated version glowing green and plotting with a raven, is reimagined as a vengeful fairy who curses princess Aurora to fall into a deathly sleep before her 16th birthday unless she can be woken by true love’s kiss.

Angelina Jolie dominates as Maleficent, giving a performance that’s dramatic, powerful and full of old Hollywood glamour. The special effects team really went to town on her face, sharpening every edge until she looks like the love child of Sophia Loren and a Lamborghini.

It’s largely set in The Moors, an overgrown medieval landscape full of long grass and knotty oaks that Maleficent is sworn to protect. If you take away the gothic whimsy, it’s essentially about an eco-friendly fairy who says some bad words and then spends the whole film fretting about it.

The ambivalence of Maleficent doesn’t add depth to the tale, it dilutes it until there’s no conflict left and everyone’s a vague hero. We’re left with a film that looks the part but is far too preoccupied with making everyone likeable. There’s a reason why fairytales make great pantomimes – it’s because they have straightforward villains we can boo and hiss.

It would be better if the film was trying to right an old Disney wrong by harking back to the original French fairytale, but it doesn’t (mind you, that version’s probably dark enough for Lars Von Trier to tackle). Ultimately, you won’t be scared, and neither will your kids. Despite a commanding performance from Jolie, it lacks something – a great villain.