Is ‘Maleficent’ OK for kids?

Like most parents, I feel fairly safe when the word Disney is attached to a movie I’m considering for a family outing — as long as that film is animated.

When it comes to live-action Disney, however, films like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Lone Ranger” make me a bit more hesitant; not because I’m worried about any content advisory necessarily, but instead because I find myself wondering if scenes will be too scary or otherwise intense for my little ones.

So with that mindset, my fellow Flicks Junkies and I sat down earlier this week to watch “Maleficent” — Disney’s next big offering for the summer lineup.

Like always, I’ll break down the film by common parental categories, but before I do, let me just say that Angelina Jolie is absolutely hypnotic as Maleficent. In fact, she’s so engaging, that it wasn’t until the credits rolled that I asked myself, “Wait, did I just watch a terrible movie?”

My eyes give this one a thumbs up while my heart and mind give it a thumbs down. But let’s not go too far down that road. I’m sure John Clyde or Curtis Linnell will be doing a full write-up on the critical merits of this movie, so let’s get back to our wee ones, shall we?

Tightness of clothing

Let’s be honest, no one really thought “Maleficent” was going to be pushing the envelope when it came to racy themes or suggestive material, so let’s talk modesty. Yep, it’s fine.

Almost every character here is covered down to their wrists and ankles. There might be a tight outfit here and there, but really, you’re safe with this category. The most uncomfortable you’re going to feel on this topic involves the moment when Prince Phillip is supposed to kiss the sleeping Aurora. I believe director Robert Stromberg intentionally made the moment feel a bit creepy, but its nothing you’re forced to dwell on. And I feel I should add here, no, it doesn’t take away from the magic of the awakening moment.

Soap-to-mouth speak

I can’t remember a single offensive word in “Maleficent,” but don’t hold me to that. I told myself last time I’d tally up the butt words and references to not-heaven, but it didn’t happen. So once again, I’m talking to you about this subject 100 percent from memory, and my brain isn’t giving up anything noteworthy. I’m going to go ahead and call this category clean. Yes, you’re welcome to email me if I totally missed something, but I really don’t expect to see anything from you — at least on this topic.

Inappropriate intoxication

We do need to talk about one scene here, without of course giving away anything related to the story.

While we can probably assume that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men are drinking grog throughout this film, a drink which I hear is wildly unhealthy for the horses, there is a defining scene where one character renders another character unconscious with the use of an unspecified drug. Because of what takes place in the scene, we the audience are left to believe the unlabeled pharmaceutical is quite potent, but note that this is not a scene that in any way glorifies the use of drugs or alcohol.

Blood and stuff

Most of the violence throughout “Maleficent” is suggested, including one key scene that would have been especially brutal to play out on film. Luckily, such scenes are cut away from so quickly, most audience members won’t bother to think through the logistics of what just took place.

The action and battle sequences are highly stylized, filled with computer graphics, and again, cut away from before the audience would be left with an uncomfortable image to kick out of their heads.

That said, “Maleficent” still might be scary to anyone younger than 5 or 6. The use of sound throughout the film is really clever, but often gets loud and intense. Maleficent is unable to touch iron which, of course she does from time-to- time, and those scenes leave temporary wounds which might be unsettling for a very young moviegoer. Also, and this is a slight spoiler so go ahead and skip on if you don’t want to know anything about this movie, but the stumps where her wings once were look pretty painful as well.

Conclusion

I think the one thing to keep in mind with “Maleficent” is the live- action factor. Had this been an animated film, no one would think twice about taking any child of any age to an IMAX screening of this adventure. However, because we’re looking at real people on the screen, the occasionally dangerous and confusing scenes might be too much for children under or around the age of 6. Then again, I know several 6-year-olds braver than me, so consider my age recommendation as a very general statement.

Overall, however, it’s one of the safest non-animated films I’ve seen this year, and one I suspect a lot of children will love, even if the critics are beating it up a bit. The MPAA got it right this time by giving the movie a PG rating.

Travis Poppleton has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and co-hosts the FlicksJunkies podcast. You can contact him at tspoppleton@gmail.com.

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