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May 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Fear not, the lack of early reviews for Maleficent, as it turns out, did not represent a sign that Disney was worried about how critics would react to the movie by first-time director Robert Stromberg, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning. Disney simply decided to lengthen its usual embargo on reviews until today (Wednesday). The first trade and national reviews and public comments have now appeared, and no one at Disney is likely to curse them. To be sure, there’s a potion of criticism whipped up by some writers, but it’s served with a heaping nostrum of praise as well. Andrew Barker in Variety remarks that the film bears “visible scarring from what one imagines were multiple rewrites” and “fails to probe the psychology of its subject” but at the same time, he says, it is the year’s most “visually arresting, brilliantly designed, stoned-college-kid-friendly pieces of eye candy.” An opposite take comes from Alonso Duraldi, the film critic for, who complains about “the aggressively unpleasant visuals [that] certainly detract from the overall film,” but applauds the writers and Jolie for creating a “character in many moods and modes, turning what was a striking but fairly single-minded villain into a fully fleshed-out woman.” If there’s an essential problem with the film, some critics suggest, it’s that it has Disney’s name over the title. As Landon McDonald observed in the USC student newspaper, the Daily Trojan, “We’re still dealing with the company that practically invented the phrase family-friendly.” Jolie’s Maleficent may appear scary to toddlers, the critics suggest, but as Associated Press critic Jocelyn Noveck remarks, “It blunts the effectiveness of the narrative if we can never quite believe Maleficent is bad. That’s because we know she’s essentially good, and she seems to know that we know it; you can see it in the upturned wrinkle of her mouth.” Geoffrey Macnab in the London Independent says that she looks more like Ava Gardner than Cruella Deville. “That means the film is never quite as scary as might have been anticipated.” Mark Adams, chief film critic for the British trade publication Screen International, does warn that “it may be a little too dark for the young kiddie marketplace” but adds that it “delivers thrills and spills, spells and laughs and enough magical wonder to keep young fantasy fans happy.” But, getting down to business, is the movie likely to become a hit? You bet, Shari Linden concludes in the Hollywood Reporter. “A few bumpy patches notwithstanding, the new feature is an exquisitely designed, emotionally absorbing work of dark enchantment,” she writes. “With the production’s star wattage, well-known source material and multipronged branding push, the studio should see its $175 million gamble on a first-time director stir up box-office magic both domestically and in international markets.”