TWISTED FAN­TASY

Elle (Canada) - - Radar -

Em­brace the dark side of fairy tales.

Wicked witches aren’t so wicked any­more—at least, not in Hol­ly­wood. This May’s Malef­i­cent of­fers up the spec­ta­cle of An­gelina Jolie in full evil­go­d­dess mode (like Lana Del Ray with horns and Freddy Krueger fin­ger­nails). Dis­ney vet­eran Linda Woolver­ton’s screen­play tells the story from the ti­tle char­ac­ter’s point of view. If this makes it sound like Dis­ney is angling for its own ver­sion of Wicked— the re­vi­sion­ist gloss on The Wizard of Oz that spawned one of the best Broad­way mu­si­cals in decades—that’s be­cause it is. Last year’s box-of­fice-bust­ing an­i­mated mu­si­cal Frozen warmed up Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen’s chilly chil­dren’s tale The Snow Queen into a story of sis­terly love and em­pow­er­ment—and fea­tured voice work by Wicked’s Tony-win­ning star Id­ina Men­zel.

Movie stu­dios re­ly­ing on fairy tales as source ma­te­rial is noth­ing new, of course; what’s in­ter­est­ing about the cur­rent crop of witch-cen­tric films is their at­tempts to gen­er­ate sym­pa­thy for char­ac­ters who have typ­i­cally en­dured in a va­ri­ety of cul­tures as rankly un­flat­ter­ing fe­male stereo­types. Malef­i­cent is a case of clever cast­ing: Tap­ping Jolie as a malev­o­lent ma­tri­arch plays on the ac­tress’ mother-of-the-year im­age while bring­ing an el­e­ment of grown-up sex­i­ness to what other­wise might be dis­missed as kid­die fare. But it also means that a char­ac­ter pre­vi­ously imag­ined in coun­ter­point to a vir­tu­ously snoozy hero­ine will be granted her own strong, per­haps even over­pow­er­ing, point of view— and that view­ers will be en­cour­aged to iden­tify with her bad be­hav­iour in­stead of sim­ply fear­ing it. And, for the mo­ment, it seems that film­mak­ers are less will­ing to con­demn their vil­lai­nesses to their re­spec­tive un­hap­pily-ev­er­afters with­out at least hear­ing their side of the story first. ADAM NAYMANh

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