Maleficent

If looks could kill, Angelina Jolie's Maleficent could lay waste to armies. Jolie, with cool wings, a red scar for lips and cheekbones that could cut concrete, sure as hell has the bearing to play a classic evil bitch in Disney's rethinking of Sleeping Beauty. If only looks were everything. But this soulless summer timekiller is empty inside. Debuting director Robert Stromberg has two Oscars for art direction (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland) and it shows. The downside is that Maleficent is nothing more than a diorama disguised as a movie, a flimsy cardboard thingie that feels untouched by human hands. The idea behind the script by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast) is that Maleficent is really a secret softie. She's been done wrong by a dude named Stefan (Sharlto Copley at his creepiest), who takes advantage of her innocence and later cuts off her wings so he can steal her magic land, marry the daughter of the King and wear the crown himself. Men—those rat bastards! No wonder Maleficent puts a curse on Stefan's baby girl, Aurora. At 16, Aurora (Elle Fanning, smiling prettily and for no reason) will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a coma. Many audience members around me looked similarly afflicted. I can relate. By the time Maleficent, aided by her shape-shifting bff Diaval (Sam Riley), is through playing fairy godmother with the help of three incompetent pixies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple need to fire their agents), Aurora is ready to join her spirit mom Maleficent in revenge against Big Daddy. The twink of a prince (Brenton Thwaites) is little more than an afterthought. Even the true love's kiss that can awaken Aurora takes a feminist slant. Jolie comes to this party ready to bite, but the movie muzzles her. Even at 97 minutes, Maleficent is still one long, laborious slog.