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Don't expect any nods to the Tchaikovsky inspired score of the Disney classic, either. Whereas that music helped make the animated feature moody and creepy, the modern score keeps hitting the same blaring emotive notes over and over again: attack, attack, attack.

Angelina Jolie is physically imposing, and that works to her advantage in films like Salt and Tomb Raider. Here she is so bound up in make up and costume that it seems hard for her to even move. Why sign an A-list Hollywood talent and then use her as a human CGI prop?

Despite all these misfires, I didn't give up on the film until very near the end. I kept hoping that all the clumsily executed changes to the beloved fairy tale would serve some thematic purpose—would deliver a some kind of positive message or indelible moment that justified the whole clunky enterprise. That moment almost came for me when a minor character was deposited in front of the unconscious princess and told to get busy. When he suggests that maybe there is something not quite right and proper about kissing a sixteen year-old girl you hardly know and who can't consent, it looks for a moment like the film has finally stumbled across some genuinely timely moral insight.

Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple in 'Maleficent'
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple in 'Maleficent'

The lad's hesitation lasts all of ten seconds, though, and then the unspeakably fatuous pixies start cajoling him like a cross between tweeners at a Justin Bieber concert and drunken frat boys in a Judd Apatow comedy. Doesn't he believe in true love? Kiss her, already. Kiss her, kiss her, kiss her, kiss her! Maleficent earns an extra half star for letting the boy hesitate at all, but even in its best moments it still falls short.

It's a desolate summer in terms of movies for youngsters. So the temptation will be strong for parents to buy into the notion that Maleficent is good enough because it's not horrible. And I can already hear youth group leaders across the country prepping short talks on the true nature of "true love" to assure skeptical parents that movie night is an integral part of the modern adolescent's spiritual development.

Meanwhile, Godzilla is now a "Christ figure," Hannibal is the water-cooler television show of the moment, and Cruella de Vil is in development for 2015. I would say "resistance is futile," but I firmly expect a Star Trek: Next Generation reboot any day now to inform us that the Borg were just a well-meaning but misunderstood alien race.

I guess we'll always have Nazis, though.

Caveat Spectator

Maleficent is rated PG. There are two effects-laden battle scenes between Maleficent and soldiers in and from the castle. These are loud, but they are essentially fantasy iterations of "shoot and fall" violence, lacking the more gory money shots (blood spurts, mangled corpses) that mark "R" and "PG-13" action films. There is a dragon that breathes fire, and the volume and frenzied editing of the fight scenes could be disturbing to younger viewers. One character falls to death from a great height, but we do not see or hear the moment of impact. A child walks off a cliff and is only saved at the last moment. One character awakes after being (probably drugged and) assaulted. While we are not shown the actual assault and technically it may not be sexual in nature, the implications of the scene could be particularly painful for those who have experienced the trauma of sexual assault or date rape.

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