'Maleficent': Angelina Jolie is great, but the movie is lackluster

( PG ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'Maleficent' doesn't quite measure up to the performance of its star Jolie.

Frank Connor/Disney/AP
'Maleficent' stars Angelina Jolie (l.) and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt (r.).

Who would imagine that Walt Disney Studios would go revisionist? “Maleficent” updates the "Sleeping Beauty" fable it famously animated in 1959 and gives it a quasi-feminist, touchy-feely twist. 

The big bad Maleficent, played in the movie by Angelina Jolie with curvy horns and cheekbones that could cut through solid steel, is given a sympathetic back story to explain all that nastiness. Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), upon whom Maleficent placed a curse in a fit of vengeful pique, has become a rather ga-ga maiden tended by a trio of pixies (Imelda Staunton is the standout). 

Director Robert Stromberg, making his debut as a director after supervising the visual effects for movies like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Avatar,” lacks the transcendent touch. At least Disney was smart enough to cast Jolie. She has a genuinely heroic presence. If only the movie were equal to it. Grade: C+ (Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.)

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