Maleficent feels classical in nature. The characters are boiled down to their essentials, the humor is timelessly broad, and Jolie's at her best when she's curling her claws and elongating her vowels like a black-sabbath Tallulah Bankhead.
I'm still not sure if the movie's smack-down between patriarchy and matriarchy is the way to go, but at least nobody here is warbling about what she wants before hitting the road to self-actualization.
While this is Jolie's show, obviously - and she's terrifically arch - the surprising dearth of other compelling characters doesn't offer much distraction when things get off track.
[It lacks] the sort of nightmarish visions that made Walt Disney's early animation features so powerful. This looks impressive, though, making use of highly imaginative, state-of-the-art 3-D effects while still evoking old-school Disney animation
Jolie's performance so overshadows the rest of the cast (and the rest of the movie) that you sometimes feel as if the other characters are, like us, just standing around watching her.
Uncertain of tone, and bearing visible scarring from what one imagines were multiple rewrites, the film fails to probe the psychology of its subject or set up a satisfying alternate history, but it sure is nice to look at for 97 minutes.