12 Days of Lesley Manville – 10: Maleficent – Mistress of Evil (2019)

Introducing an icy Michelle Pfeiffer into the mix can’t quite elevate the doughty storytelling and CGI reliance of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

“It’s nothing of any real consequence, and it’s certainly no reason to overreact”

I found Maleficent quite watchable if unexceptional, failing to really see the point of giving villains empathetic backstories. So the idea of returning to this world in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was a bit of a stretch, I doubt I would have done it if not for trying to watch Lesley Manville’s body of work. And if Manville’s pixie Flittle is scarcely featured, she does at least get a highly satisfying moment.

This sequel, set six years later, focuses on the impending marriage between Aurora, Sleeping Beauty herself, and Prince Philip from the human kingdom of Ulstead, next door to the fairy realm of the Moors where Aurora is queen. The fly in the ointment this time is humankind’s antipathy for Maleficent and the grasping ambition of Philip’s mother Queen Ingrith who has war on her mind rather than weddings.

Michelle Pfeiffer is somewhat more campy fun as Ingrith than Angelina Jolie ever allows herself to be as Maleficent. Jolie’s haughty performance undoubtedly suits the magisterial character but the tension between her villainry and virtuousness is quite strained here, especially in the face of Ingrith’s own brand of evil.

Overall, the film relies too much on would-be cute CGI characters and battles at the expense of making us really care about anyone in this world. Elle Fanning does her best as Aurora but Harris Dickinson is too flat as Philip, not enough chemistry as her intended and no other characteristics to speak of. I really wouldn’t bother with this one.

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