I have this really cool necklace. It’s an antique pillbox with a sheaf of wheat carved into the top and a big, chunky chain. It weighs about 6 pounds, but I don’t care — it’s a one-of-a-kind piece I found on Etsy, and the wheat in particular is special. My dad, a native Kansan, requested that we scatter his ashes in a Kansas wheat field, which we did. I love this necklace, is what I’m saying.
When I interviewed Angelina Jolie in 2011, for “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” her directorial debut, she complimented me on that necklace. And my first instinct was to take it off and hand it over. (I didn’t. Instead I now refer to it as my “Angelina Jolie necklace.”) Jolie is a fine actress, but more than that, she is a movie star. She is freakishly magnetic, both in a hotel interview suite and on screen. Which means she’s great in the retcon-orama that is Disney’s “Maleficent.” But the rest of the movie is a mess.
Jolie savagely glides through the film with a dominating presence and cheekbones that are chef’s-knife sharp. She blends her character’s cruelty — Maleficent is the bad fairy from Disney’s 1959 animated film “Sleeping Beauty” — with humor and a touch of pathos that makes her a pleasure to watch. Everyone else, though, seems to be in an entirely different movie.
While Jolie embraces the element of fairy-tale camp present in all classic Disney animated films, everyone else in “Maleficent” kind of has no idea what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. No one else’s motivation is clear; even though Maleficent’s is weak (a boy dumped her, so better turn evil!), at least it exists. Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is a simpering fool who is more interesting asleep than awake; Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) is a milquetoast bag of generic; King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) has nothing going for him but a Scottish accent that will certainly float some boats.
Jolie is perfectly capable of carrying a not-great film — her Oscar-winning turn in “Girl, Interrupted”
proved that — but there’s a limit to how much weight she can handle before it crushes her. She is a pleasure to watch in “Maleficent,” particularly because she shows a mastery of comedic timing I’m not sure we’ve seen before, but even her immense magnetism can’t save this kingdom.