That mouse just can’t quit with this live action train, huh. Can’t really blame Disney when the first “Sleeping Beauty” story adaptation made nearly $70 million in its opening weekend and grossed $758 million worldwide.
In this follow-up to the 2014 hit, Angelina Jolie returns to the role of Maleficent, a powerful fairy who now looks after her goddaughter and acts as the main defender of the Moors Kingdom. Queen of that kingdom is Maleficent’s goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning), who now rules a united kingdom including both humans and mystical creatures.
Along with leading a nation, Aurora has fallen in love with Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), who’s from another kingdom. The two are looking to get married, and with some convincing, Maleficent becomes at least open to the idea. However, Phillip’s parents, especially his mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), are less than welcoming, viewing the mystical residents of Aurora’s kingdom, including Maleficent as a threat. Her prejudice eventually causes a strain between Aurora and Maleficent.
Unlike this title implies, Maleficent is a more complex character than just a “Mistress of Evil,” although this sequel continuing her story is somewhat unnecessary and more than a bit messy. There are plenty of good ideas here and overall it’s an entertaining piece of family entertainment, but the execution is off.
For example, the first act feels immensely rushed, featuring a dinner scene with absolutely zero subtlety in motivations which forces a conflict way too fast. The movie then falls into fairly familiar territory with a very predictable second and third act to finish things up.
As previously stated, though, the movie isn’t without its merit. For example, Maleficent in the movie meets other “Dark Feys” like herself and is able to learn more about their struggle. The question of course is where the hell the other dark feys were during the first film, but regardless, seeing Maleficent connect and relate to her own kind was a good step.
This sequel probably didn’t need to be about two hours, either, yet “Maleficent” is rarely boring, thanks to the magical environment and creatures inhabiting the film’s world, along with solid moments of action.
While not featured very much because the two go off on their own directions, the mother-daughter relationship between Maleficent and Aurora is again a highlight like last time. As it was in the original, the two being like a family despite their differences is the heart of the movie and makes for an endearing hook.
The characters are of course helped by the performances from Fanning and Jolie, with the latter again doing great work in the Maleficent role. She brings a gravitas and confidence to the character, while also making Maleficent’s vulnerable side believable.
While the two lead characters help the movie, though, the supporting ones don’t as much. Pfeiffer’s queen character is just so apparently villainous that it’s kind of laughable. Then there’s the return of the insufferable pixies, whose shared character trait is that they’re complete morons.
Overall this part 2 has just enough entertainment value and a nice lead duo to make it worth a watch for a fantasy. It’s not all that great, but for a family flick it’s enjoyable enough and visually fits in with this time of year. 3.0 out of 5.