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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Maleficent

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Angelina Jolie stars in a scene from the movie "Maleficent."
Even an iconic villainess may not be all bad.

That's the message of "Maleficent" (Disney). This live-action, feminist retelling of the Magic Kingdom's 1959 animated feature "Sleeping Beauty" seeks to rehabilitate the original film's thoroughly wicked fairy godmother.

Along with its moral shadings, however, director Robert Stromberg 3-D fantasy introduces other novelties that may not sit well with romantics -- or with those committed to the traditional family. His picture also has enough dark imagery and bloodless battling to make it unsuitable for the smallest moviegoers.

Angelina Jolie takes up the title character once voiced by Eleanor Audley. As opening scenes show us, Maleficent -- portrayed in youth by Isobelle Molloy -- was initially a good sprite. In fact, she served as the principal protectress of her enchanted homeland, The Moors, a territory bordered by -- and under constant threat of conquest from -- a human kingdom full of aggressive warriors.

But an unlikely romance with Stefan (Toby Regbo), a solitary human intruder into The Moors, was to end in a cruel, ambition-fuelled betrayal that would change Maleficent's whole character, leaving her bitter and vengeful.

Maleficent's opportunity to mete out her longed-for retribution comes when Stefan (now Sharlto Copley), whose act of treachery toward her has placed him on the throne of the human realm, becomes the father of a baby girl.

At the infant's christening, Maleficent places a curse on the child, dooming her to fall into an endless slumber on the day before her 16th birthday. Only "true love's kiss" -- a phenomenon Maleficent believes does not exist -- will be able to awaken the lass.

Yet, as Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) grows up, her grace and innocent goodness melt Maleficent's heart. So much so, that -- aided by Diaval (Sam Riley), the shape-shifting crow who serves as her assistant and scout, the repentant Maleficent strives to thwart the fulfillment of her own malediction.

As scripted by Linda Woolverton, "Maleficent" can be viewed as an honorable conversion story warning against a hunger for power and a thirst for revenge. Yet it startlingly subverts its source material in a way that can't be specified for fear of a spoiler but that registers as vaguely anti-male and anti-marriage.

The film contains some harsh action violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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