There’s always been something not quite right about “Sleeping Beauty.”
A princess is cursed so that before the end of her 16th birthday, she’ll prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deathlike sleep?
That’s oddly specific.
And, once that happens, the only way to break that spell is for a virtual stranger to get to first base with that unconscious underage girl?
Anyway, Disney’s “Maleficent” turns the tables on the studio’s 1959 animated classic — and undoes most of what you know and love about it — with this wildly revisionist live-action tale that creates a backstory for its most popular villain.
Orphaned fairy Maleficent (played as a child by Isobelle Molloy) grows up in the moors, a magical land full of fairies as well as plenty of other critters that look like Disney salvaged them from a Jim Henson garage sale.
One day, Maleficent meets her first human, Stefan (Michael Higgins), and they become best friends. Over the years, they fall in love.
A decade or two later, Stefan (played as an adult by Sharlto Copley) returns to romance Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). Then, in order to avenge the king she defeated in battle and become heir to the throne, he drugs her and cuts off her wings, leaving Mal with nothing to defend herself other than her powerful magic and those razor-sharp cheekbones.
Swearing revenge, Mal unleashes that famous curse.
King Stefan banishes spinning wheels throughout his kingdom, making it The Land Textiles Forgot, and sends his daughter, Aurora, to the woods to be raised by three tiny fairies.
Mal spends her days playing practical jokes on the fairies and slowly growing to care for Aurora, whom she initially regards like The Grinch beholding Cindy Lou Who.
Even though Mal tries to rescind the curse, a teenage Aurora (Elle Fanning) is inexplicably drawn to the repository of ancient spinning wheels as though she were Mike or Frank from “American Pickers.”
Jolie is terrific, and appropriately otherworldly, even without the prosthetics. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing her.
But the movie is all over the place. “Maleficent” is clearly aimed at little girls, and there’s plenty of annoying silliness with the fairy trio. But there are also some fairly dark (at least for small children) battle scenes and some very rapey undertones involving Mal’s de-winging.
“Maleficent” never explains why all the other fairies look like 1:20 scale models of Mal. Or why she doesn’t just use her magic to bring back those wings, instead of repeatedly turning a bird into a man and back again to “be her wings.”
And it certainly doesn’t try to rationalize that seemingly random curse.
Now, there’s something not quite right about “Maleficent,” too.