Maleficent is a well-intentioned fairy, a protector of her kingdom in the moors until her heart is hardened when she’s betrayed by the human world. She seeks revenge, taking her fury out on an innocent baby, Princess Aurora, thereby setting up the Sleeping Beauty story we know so well.
Like the recent hit Wicked, where viewers get the backstory to why the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz is so mean, we also get a three-dimensional view of Maleficent, providing another example of the trend lately that casts storybook villains in a more sympathetic light.
Traditionalists may not like the changes to the original story, but they provide interesting discussions with kids familiar with the original Sleeping Beauty. My kids are just out for summer and I challenged them to compare/ contrast Maleficent with Sleeping Beauty to earn technology time. Older children can think about how the characters are portrayed. Who is the villain? Who is the main character? How is King Stephan, Aurora’s father, the same and different in each story? Smaller children can look at the plot. For instance, how is the spell on Sleeping Beauty the same and different? What do the three colorful fairies who raise Aurora do that’s the same and different?
While the setting is visually beautiful on the big screen and the music soars, Maleficent is PG because of intense battle scenes and scary mythical creatures. It’s recommended to keep children under 7 away from this one.
Kid Focused Grades for Maleficent:
Compelling story line- A-
Maleficent offers complexity and endless parallels to the original Sleeping Beauty. Some choices like how the King could turn so quickly and completely, even though it doesn’t really seem to be for his daughter’s protection after all, are a bit unsettling.
Strong message- B
Power corrupts absolutely and Ambition can be blinded by greed are two themes that could be talked about with older kids. Some viewers will be uneasy about sympathizing with an evil character we’ve all known so long. There’s also a modern spin on the idea “true love doesn’t exist,” or does it?
Leading character is a role model- C
We see the story through Maleficent’s eyes. The question of whether she’s a role model, what she values most, her flaws, and how she redeems herself are pivotal to the story.
Sexual or adult content – A
There is one kiss between Aurora and the prince.
Language and Violence- C
The language is fine, but there are definitely scary parts for kids under 7. I brought my 6-year-old, but if it were just the two of us I wouldn’t have taken her.
Overall Kid Focused Grade for Maleficent: B
Rated PG, Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes