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May 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Two things that the critics all agree on about Disney’s Maleficent: 1. It is visually arresting. 2. Angelina Jolie is terrific in the title role. Actually, it’s only No. 2 that really matters. No one buys a movie ticket to see the scenery. Even some of the most negative reviewers are applauding Jolie’s performance. “Except for Angelina Jolie, exemplary as the fairy badmother who laid a narcotic curse on an infant princess, this pricey live-action drama is a dismaying botch,” writes Richard Corliss in Time magazine. Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times calls Jolie’s performance “wickedly good.” As for the script: “Though it never plays like a polemic, the film has so much it wants to say the emotional power that might have made it a classic is undercut.” Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer obviously has mixed feelings about the film, although none about Jolie. “It should be said right here and now that the best reason to see Maleficent is to watch Jolie,” he says. But he goes on to say that screenwriter Linda Woolverton has invented “a backstory that can be seen as either bringing humanity to a villainess, or bringing fuzzy equivocation into what was once a clearly defined good-vs.-evil yarn.” Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal has no such mixed feelings, writing: “Ms. Jolie is, in truth, a formidable presence — with heightened cheekbones that sweep up into her ears like the speed lines on a sports car, and green vapors rising from her shoulders. Still, this icon of witchcraft can’t save a production that’s suffocatingly elaborate yet insufficiently bewitching.” On the other hand, Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News begins his review by writing, “Angelina Jolie is so wickedly enchanting in the magical, magnificent Maleficent you may not notice how transporting this female-driven blockbuster really is.” And Kate Taylor in the Toronto Globe and Mail remarks that “the film surprises … for the thematic richness of its story, gloriously personified by Angelina Jolie in the title role.” Manohla Dargis in the New York Times assesses Jolie’s performance this way: “Ms. Jolie is, unsurprisingly, a visual marvel. Her face has been smoothed into an alabaster Cubist mask, and prostheses elongate her already sharp cheekbones; from some angles, it looks as if she had a second set of vestigial wings riding under her skin. The exquisite attention to detail in both the makeup and costume is routine in major productions like this one, of course, but the mixture of Old Hollywood glamour and contemporary fetishwear doesn’t just turn Maleficent into a pleasurable spectacle, it also serves a character who embodies both the past and the future. Ms. Jolie’s performance is similarly bifurcated, with a controlled physicality that, just when it seems to be edging into catwalk blankness, springs to weird life with grotesque facial contortions and spidery movements.”