One of the most important rules in film making is show, not tell. Disney’s “Maleficent” breaks that rule because this film was purely made to be a fun family film like “Frozen.” “Maleficent” is the story of “Sleeping Beauty” from the point of view of the villain who is the title character (played by Angelina Jolie)… sort of. I understand taking poetic license with a fairy-tale that is nearly or more than three centuries old, we all know the story of “Sleeping Beauty;” it’s the kind of story that is supposed to be fun to watch and feel almost nostalgic. Yet there’s nothing to like or dislike. With a run time of just ninety-eight minutes, I wasn’t given time to form opinions about the characters. Don’t worry, fellow moviegoers, Disney has solved this problem by simply adding narration that explains everything for you. And when they feel that narration is a bit bland, what’s the harm of having the characters just tell you themselves?
The young Maleficent is a fairy. A pretty metal fairy, I might add, because I have never heard of a fairy with eagle’s wings and horns and wears earth tones. She falls for a young farmer boy named Stefan (pronounced Stef-fon which made me think of nothing but that one character that Bill Hader portrayed on “Saturday Night Live”). Soon he gives her a gift when hormones are just kicking in, and that gift is “true love’s first kiss.” Awww, you all say as you read that, that’s sweet. Now here’s the thing that I mentioned earlier, the characters sometime explain things for you. During their first encounter, Maleficent touches Stefan’s hand and is burnt. This is due to Stefan’s metal ring. She says, “Iron burns fairies.” Okay, well we’ve established that plot point, but they couldn’t have just showed the burning? Why couldn’t they just show it and not add that off beat line? But I’ll stop there… on that example of telling and not showing.
Later, when they’re older, Maleficent has become the guardian of the moors. The evil king (we know he’s evil because the narration tells us he is) arrives with an army (that has like ten guys) and says, “These are the Moors, a place where no man would ever venture due to the dangers within.” Now that line was just stupid. If the battle was just shown, it would have given us just that much information. Do the filmmakers (or the committee to make the Jolie movie) think the audience needs that many crumbs, that they thought it best to just throw the entire loaf? Filmmakers can trusts audiences now (even if they are children), you don’t show them a red apple and say that you are showing them a red apple. They know what you’re showing them, so just SHOW IT and don’t TELL IT.
Then there’s the problem with the actual story of “Sleeping Beauty.” I have read reviews that put this movie in a category that was created after the Broadway hit “Wicked.” But the difference between “Wicked” and “Maleficent” is that at least “Wicked” kept to the source material. “Maleficent” just changed the story completely and used some of the same names. The prince (a very handsome Brenton Thwaites) is introduced late in the second act and then quickly disregarded early in the third act to prove that true love comes only from those who care for you. Come on, Disney, there’s a difference between the love that family has for one another and the love one chooses for one’s self. True love’s first kiss, comes from the love you choose. The love that comes from family is mandatory and yet true because you have a connection with this person that no one outside the relationship will ever understand. People like true love that you choose.
The movie has a $180 million budget. Apparently that kind of money can only produce a product with sloppy storytelling, Candy Crush like special effects, and a good sized salary for Jolie (who also served as Executive Producer). Speaking of Jolie, this was the part that she was born for. But a part is only as good as the script it comes from, and not even all of the fake cheeks in the world would prove that statement wrong. Yes, I know that this was a blockbuster movie and only made to make money. It’s supposed to be fun! The key word in the last sentence is “supposed.” It’s not even fun to watch because it’s just a blur of color and narration. Couldn’t some of those millions have gone to better battle sequences or a more creative director?
So to end my review here is my message to studios for the next summer season: It’s one thing for a movie to make money, but it’s another to make it worth those earnings.