You had one job, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” It’s right in the title. Evil.
It’s an unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary 2014 reimagining of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” villain, a relatively juicy idea that turned Maleficent into another misunderstood anti-hero.
“Mistress of Evil” doesn’t bring the evil, which is understandable from a marketing perspective. It also doesn’t bring that much Maleficent.
It does bring plenty of big-budget thrills and visual effects that fit right in with Disney’s live-action aesthetics right now. It’s not much for characters or story, but there’s a something-for-everyone mashup of mostly mindless entertainment.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is preparing for the wedding of her goddaughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning).
Aurora’s marriage to Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) will bring symbolic union to the worlds of humans and faeries, but there are more sinister plans afoot, thanks to the actual villain, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Director Robert Stromberg, working from a script adapted by Linda Woolverton, keeps a lot of plates spinning, setting up special effects oohs and ahhs and eventual epic battle sequences. “Mistress of Evil” is seldom boring, but it’s often just kind of there.
It’s also trying to straddle both younger audiences and parents. I was struck by numerous plot lines and big scenes that seemed to come from an unlikely inspiration: “Game of Thrones.” Only, y’know, like a PG-rated, more pastel version without as much thought toward character or story.
Jolie is still having fun with what she’s given (though she is surprisingly light on screen time for a title role). In one scene, while preparing to meet the future in-laws, her vamping and comically forced smile evoked Catherine O'Hara’s Moira Rose on TV’s “Schitt’s Creek.” That’s high praise.
Fanning is stuck in a thankless Disney princess role, but Pfeiffer does seem to be the one really having fun. She brings the evil that’s lacking elsewhere.
Ultimately, Maleficent is more a “Mistress of Wronged and Misunderstood.” Not quite as catchy.