If you're anything like us, you're going to see Maleficent this weekend because you want to see a horned, frightening, yet still freakishly beautiful Angelina Jolie casting evil on a sweet, innocent princess.
And while the critics seem to unanimously agree that Jolie is fantastic playing the villain, there is some doubt amongst them as to why the plot layout and special effects don't seem quite up to par with her acting skills.
Variety's Andrew Barker, for example, took issue with the pace of the film, saying it would have "actually benefit[ted] from some slow-paced indulgence." And while while he found some of the bonding scenes between Maleficent and Elle Fanning's Princess Aurora character to be "rough and rushed," he praised Jolie as being "perfectly cast...and [doing] work despite substantial physical constraints. She spends the entire film wearing a prosthetic nose, cheeks, teeth and ears, with moon-sized contact lenses and a bulky set of horns atop her head."
Barker also praised Jolie for being able "to command the screen as well as she does" and, unlike some of his critical contemporaries, he lauded the "exquisite" special effects in the film,writing, "...the armies of art directors, costumers and effects technicians aim for the spectacular with every shot, and nail it with impressive consistency."
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw was impressed with Jolie's "fierce screen presence," too, saying the Oscar nominee "is becoming the Sophia Loren of our age." Fanning, however, was "entirely upstaged by Jolie," he wrote. And while consistently floored by Jolie's performance, Bradshaw wasn't as enamored with the plot, writing that he wants to see the actress "in a grownup film."
Digital Spy critic Ben Rawson-Jones gave Maleficent three out of five stars, calling Jolie's "mesmerising portrayal of the titular character" the film's "only consistent element." He disliked plot transitions "handled dismally," "atrocious" 3D effects during the first third of the movie and said the film "straddles the line between magnificence and misery." Unlike the Guardian's reviewer, though, Rawson-Jones credited Fanning for playting a solid Aurora, writing that her role "could have been nausea-inducing due to sweetness if played by a lesser actress."
Conclusively, though, Rawson-Jones thought the actors' portrayals saved the film, writing, "...The consistent splendour of Jolie's spellbinding portrayal, the energetic presence of Fanning and a rousing climax that reinforces classic moral values go a long way to salvaging this uneven production."
Similarly, USA Today's Claudia Puig praised Jolie, who is "at her best in vicious mode," calling her "mesmerizing in her ability to strike terror." Puig credited Jolie for "[pulling] off the thinly written part by adopting a commanding presence," but ultimately, found the script to fall short. "Disney missed a golden opportunity to tell a bewitching story," she wrote, "and instead gives audiences a muddled revisionist tale with stunning visuals."
Maleficent hits theaters May 30.