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‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is a black humor parody of a wedding gone wrong

Twice upon a time. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil extends the origin story set forth in the 2014 live-action smash hit Maleficent, which cleverly upended our understanding of the greatest of Disney’s animated villains. Not at all the malevolent evil-doer depicted in Sleeping Beauty, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent turns out to be a wronged woman seeking justice for herself and her people.

Climaxing with an ingenious spin on the “true love’s kiss” requirement to awaken the sleeping beauty Aurora, the 2014 version ends with order restored between the human and fairy worlds. Maleficent proclaims young Aurora Queen of the Moors (fairyland) and she settles into her role as godmother and unofficial mother figure.

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Five years have elapsed when this sequel begins, and the peace and quiet is about to be disturbed again … by impending nuptials. Maleficent, for one, is not pleased.

“Don’t ruin my morning,” she says to a messenger threateningly.

Peace may have reigned between the humans and the fairy world but it’s been an unsteady peace, with human poachers kidnapping fairy woodland creatures, and Maleficent going after the poachers. So she’s less than thrilled that Aurora fancies human royalty, Prince Phillip.

“Godmother, Phillip asked me to marry him.”
“Poor thing, he’ll recover,” Maleficent responds.

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Maleficent is not the only one bothered by the pairing. Phillip’s mother, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, abhors Maleficent. Witness her icy greeting at a family get-together dinner for the young couple.

“You have done an admirable job going against your own nature to raise this child, but now she will finally get the love of a real mother,” she says. “Tonight I consider Aurora my own.”

Things go from bad to worse. Not only is the wedding called off in spectacular fashion, but Maleficent is attacked and war breaks out between humans and fairies. Against the backdrop of an impending war, Aurora must decide between the fairy world, represented by her godmother, and humanity, represented by her mother-in-law-to-be. Likewise, Maleficent must choose sides between her own kind and her human goddaughter. Those dilemmas animate the rest of the film.

Angelina Jolie was born to play Maleficent and she cuts a very fine figure once again, with her high-necked capes, twisty black horns, and killer cheekbones. Deadpan humor also becomes her, as when she’s challenged by the evil queen.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were making a threat,” the queen says.
“Well do you?” Maleficent says.
“Do I what?”
“Know better.”

And when she, with all her mystical powers at her disposal, confronts a rabble of angry peasants …

“Pitchforks? Humans are hilarious.”

Her wry delivery lifts the sometimes grim mood of much of the film, as do the frequent and clever riffs on the original Sleeping Beauty. And strains of humor can even be found in the classic familial tensions between mother and daughter, between daughter and mother-in-law, and between mother and mother-in-law. A black humor parody of how fraught weddings can be, perhaps?

And finally, this being a fairy tale, the clouds of war, deception, and death do eventually depart, and happiness is bestowed upon us all. Even the so-called Mistress of Evil bows to love.

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