The Movie Scab: Cinderella vs Maleficent.
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Cinderella: Ack! Ack! Ack!
Maleficent: 0 Acks!
Picture this: Cinderella and Maleficent at the Pom Pom bar from the movie Stripes. They’re in the mud-wrestling ring with Dewey “Ox” Oxberger (played by the late and great John Candy, funny Canadian) and things are about to get dirty. Real dirty. R-rated dirty. There will be foul language, bare boobs (and hot wings—got to include Maleficent’s best feature) and a horde of sweaty, dirty, filthy-minded men cheering them on.
The question you have to ask yourself is, with John Winger (Bill Murray) at your side, who would you place your money on?
That’s a movie Monkey Boy and I would have paid hard earned money to see.
Cinderella and Maleficent are not that movie. Bummer.
But Cinderella is a better movie than Maleficent and Maleficent is, without a doubt, one of the worst, most manipulative movies of 2014.
Just so you know, Monkey Boy and I knew what Maleficent was and that’s why we skipped it last summer. The trailer told us everything: Revisionist, politically correct, Disney fairy tale history. This is stuff made solely for the Magic Christian’s sewage filled swimming pool, and if you like that sort of thing, then by all means lay your money down and get into the pool, hold your nose and go under. Me and Monkey Boy? No thanks.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me catch you up to speed: Maleficent is the antagonist from Walt Disney’s animated movie Sleeping Beauty (1959), a.k.a., the wicked witch (formally) known as The Mistress of All Evil.
She was already a famous evil character in fairy tale literature, of course, inspired by centuries of storytelling, but she emerged from the darkness within a tale that included rape, necrophilia, cannibalism and suicide, the story and character twisting through time until Walt Disney transformed them into the beloved fairy tale and evil witch we all know and love today. Walt’s Maleficent is considered one of the most evil characters ever put on film—a cartoon villainess, no less—giving the alien from Alien, Nurse Ratched, Darth Vader and even Dr. Hannibal Lecter a run for their evil money.
Maleficent, the 2014 movie, is based on the same character from Sleeping Beauty, but this time she’s known as The Mistress Who Hates All Men and Bottom Lip Pouts and Feels Sorry for Herself. Why does she hate all men? Because, as the movie and screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Alice in Wonderland) make clear, men—all men—are evil. Why does she pout? Because she’s a victim. Who victimized her? Men.
If this sounds familiar—mind blown!—it is. Oz the Great and Powerful pulled the same victim card on the Wicked Witch of the West, laying all the blame at the feet of man, and that movie sucked for all the same reasons Maleficent sucks, and let me tell you, gang, Maleficent sucks so bad it’s difficult for me to put it into words.
But let me try.
It was so awful, so heavy-handed, so preachy and obvious, I kept on wondering if The Sledgehammer Darren Aronfsky (Black Swan, Noah) directed it. But, no, Robert Stromberg did, which surprised me because Stromberg has had a diverse career in film as a well respected special effects artist and designer. In other words, his work exemplifies the true meaning of diversity, his artistic brush sweeping across a varied array of movies. And even though Maleficent was his directorial debut, if you look at his film history it’s clear the guy isn’t afraid to color outside the lines, unlike screenwriter Woolverton, who is a full-on Disney disciple.
After I saw Maleficent, I had to have a shower and scrub myself raw with a brick just to wash away the movie’s 97 minutes worth of PC man-hate.
Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Linda.
Now, I’d like to point out that “maleficent’ is a kangaroo word. That means there’s another baby word tucked away inside its furry little feminine pouch. (For those of you who can’t spot it, the word is “male.”) Critics argue that Walt Disney and his crew of bigoted writers and animators chose the name to make a point back in 1959: When a woman behaves like a man—strong, willful, leader—she’s a witch who deserves a sword in the heart. Or something.
Fans of Walt say Maleficent was an excellent name-choice for a villain and that’s as about as conspiratorial as it gets.
Personally, I don’t think Walt was as black-hearted as that, but after watching the reinvention, I’m beginning to think like his critics—in regard to the modern filmmakers! The whole kangaroo word thing started to make a wicked kind of sense because Maleficent is a movie that hates men. The main character is a woman who hates men and does not need men. And the word is a kangaroo word with the word “male” hidden inside.
Think about it… think about it…
I don’t know what Walt’s original intentions were, but I’m telling you, the intention of Maleficent is to tell the world that women don’t need men. If you think I’m being conspiratorial, well, all I can say is you don’t know much about male genitalia, the meaning of the word “emasculation” and the ultimate goal of feminism’s second and third-wave. (I can sum it up for you: The last man’s taxidermied penis on display in a natural history museum.)
All that said, if Monkey Boy and I were so darn aware, why did we watch Maleficent in the first place? Why did we put ourselves through such pain and misery? Why did we allow them to emasculate us?
Because of Cinderalla, damn it! It’s all Cinderella’s fault!
That’s right. I’m following the “blaming narrative,” behaving just like Maleficent. You don’t like that, go home and cry to mommy. It’s all your mommy’s fault anyway.
I didn’t even want to see Cinderalla. My father did. He liked the trailer, thought the movie looked pretty and colorful, and felt that maybe there was some good, old-fashioned storytelling in there somewhere, something like from when he was a kid.
As it turns out, my father was right. But there’s more to it than that: Cinderella is the antithesis of Maleficent.
It isn’t movie making genius and it’s a fairy tale we all know by heart (like Sleeping Beauty), but it’s well executed, well told and director Kenneth Branagh knows when to color outside the lines (Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein) and when not to (Henry V). With Cinderella, he knew the right choice was not to color outside the lines. Even better, he keeps it as real as he can (for a fairy tale), while pouring the saccharine sweetness with a light hand. I have a funny feeling Walt Disney would have approved. (My only complaint is that the Evil Stepmother wasn’t evil enough, but as the farmer said to the leading male character in Babe, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”)
So, you see? We were inspired by Cinderella, which explains why, when an opportunity came along to see another fairy tale called Maleficent on TV for free recently (a DISH perk weekend of movie freebies, damn them, damn them all to hell), Monkey Boy and I sat wide-eyed and bushy-tailed on the couch, ready to man-and-monkey-up and watch it.
Which leads me back to the Pom Pom bar and mud-wrestling.
Who are you going to lay your money on?
Cinderella's kind of old-fashioned and she seems to like just about everybody, men, women, mice, you name it. When she’s betrayed (or if Maleficent pulls a sneaky wrestling move on her, like a Diving Bulldog), you really feel for her and cheer her on. You want her to win. Maleficent's ultra-modern and seems to love women but hate men and turns a male crow into a human slave, talks to him like he's an idiot and then transforms him into a wimpy, useless dragon that gets its butt kicked so bad she has to rescue it, kills the man who betrayed her and kisses Sleeping Beauty and wakes her up because the prince is a useless wimp nobody needs. (Notice a theme here?) And then there's Ox, Canadian, funny, a giant of a man who seems to love everyone and everything, including the Army.
My money's on Ox. But I've got a side bet on Cinderella. I think they're going to double-team Maleficent with a devastating Powerbomb Neckbreaker Combination. Hopefully, we'll have enough time to cheer them on before the MP's and police raid the bar.
My rating: If you’re going to see Maleficent, walk into Pom Pom’s and tell Ox you’d like a Reverse Frankensteiner. He will be happy to oblige and knock you unconscious and you will not see the movie. If you’re going to see Cinderella, walk into Pom Pom’s and order five Stars and Stripes, knock them back one after the other, then slap your face over and over to get yourself pumped up and jump into the ring. If you survive the mud-wrestling match with Ox and the girls, you’ll be in the right frame of mind for Cinderella.
Mud-wrestling scene from "Sripes"
- Stripes2.m4v - YouTube
An excerpt of the famous mud wrestling scene from Stripes.