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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is the even darker sequel to Maleficent, Disney's live-action retelling of Sleeping Beauty. After Aurora (Elle Fanning) becomes engaged to Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson), his mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), threatens not only Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) but all of the Moorfolk. The fantasy violence is more intense here than in the first film: Frightening sequences include war, mass destruction, and a near-genocide of the fae/fairy folk (think Avengers: Infinity War-like deaths). Characters are seriously injured, and one beloved character sacrifices herself. At one point it seems like no one will get to live, much less find a "happily ever after." Characters drink wine, and romance includes a few kisses, embraces, and some longing looks -- but it's the love between mother and daughter that's really at the core of this story. Themes also include empathy, collaboration, and teamwork, as well as the possibility of reinvention and rediscovery.
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What's the story?
MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL is the sequel to Disney's popular 2014 Sleeping Beauty retelling, reuniting Angelina Jolie as dark godmother Maleficent and Elle Fanning as the lovely Aurora, queen of the Moors and all its fae/fairy folk. The bond between the two women is tested when Aurora accepts a proposal from her beloved Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) of neighboring Ulstead. When Philip's mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), demands that Aurora and Maleficent attend a celebratory family engagement dinner at Ulstead castle, Maleficent tries to be cordial -- until Ingrith openly insults her and the Moorfolk. In a moment of chaos, King John (Robert Lindsay) appears to be cursed by Maleficent, so Ingrith declares war on the Moorfolk. Meanwhile, Maleficent flees and is nearly shot down, only to be saved by fellow winged dark fae who've been hiding from humans for generations. Maleficent must decide whether to join her fellow fae to fight or to seek peace with the humans.
Is it any good?
Fabulous costumes, vibrant art direction, and the on-screen dueling of two Hollywood queens -- Jolie and Pfeiffer -- save this from being another uneven, unnecessary sequel. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is even darker and more violent than its predecessor. The manner in which Moorfolk are killed is as chilling as the disturbing moments in Avengers: Infinity War or War of the Worlds. But the brief scenes in the Moors, with its various fae creatures, are still enchanting for younger audiences. The romance, already established, isn't swoon-worthy here, but at least the future in-law troubles drive the paper-thin storyline.
Pfeiffer stands out as Ingrith, who's unwilling to entertain the prospect of peace with Maleficent and the fae. She's at her best as an ice queen mother-in-law with a penchant for war. Jolie is always a treat, but the subplot involving her original people is underwhelming, even with the always wonderful Chiwetel Ejiofor as one of the two dark fae vying for Maleficent's attention (the other, played by Ed Skrein, is a smarmy warmonger). The cast is stronger than the screenplay, so -- given the (spoiler alert) presumed happily ever after ending -- audiences may be left thinking/hoping that this is the last of the Maleficent films, but not the last of Jolie and Pfeiffer working together.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is the idea of love explored in the movie? Are there are kinds of "true love" other than romance? Which characters have a loving relationship, and which don't?
Do you think there should be another sequel, or do you feel this particular story is resolved?
- In theaters: October 18, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2020
- Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer
- Director: Joachim Ronning
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More
- Character strengths: Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images
- Last updated: January 13, 2020
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