Ben got a bit miffed by something a week and a half ago which surprised me. We were setting up our Disney+ profiles and he was genuinely annoyed because he couldn’t make his avatar Tramp, from Lady and the Tramp. Yes, that’s right. We are (*counts through list*) fourteen films in (fifteen if you include the film review you’re about to read) and Ben now has a favourite Disney character. That is how much he enjoyed Lady and the Tramp! A result and much sooner than I expected (I mean, I was expecting his favourite character to be Maui in Moana, so that gives you an idea of the timescale… I’m lying, I expected it to be Robin Hood, but it’s still earlier than I expected).
Let’s see if he finds another one in Sleeping Beauty… maybe.
The original story of Sleeping Beauty is thought to date back as early as the 14th Century, but the more well-known version was adapted and published by Charles Perrault and then re-adapted by the Brothers Grimm (because, I mean, which one’s didn’t they re-adapt). The tale is of a beautiful princess, who is cursed by an evil fairy to die when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel spindle, but instead of sleep, a good fairy alters the curse so that the princess will only fall asleep, rather than die and that true-love’s kiss will awaken her.
Do I think Ben will like this one? Tough call. He liked Cinderella and didn’t hate Snow White, so don’t think he’ll hate this one. However, I think it will be his least liked of the three ‘Princess’ films he’s seen so far. We’ll just have to see, won’t we.
As for me, I have fond memories of this film and always enjoy watching it. I think Aurora is sweet and Prince Philip has the most character of the princes that we have met so far (and an actual name, unlike the previous two). My favourite characters are the three good fairies and love the dress/cake scene. Definitely worth a watch.
“Right team, we’re going to do an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty for our next film”
“Hmmm… It’s quite similar to Snow White isn’t it?”
“Well… Jailbait Princess that likes to natter with wildlife, crazy bitch wants her dead but ends up condemning her to eternal sleep, adult Prince that likes to appear from the bushes and sing at the girls manages to break the spell by making out with her whilst she’s zonked out”
“Ok I see your point, so any ideas how to make this film different then?”
“How about we take away the entertaining Dwarves and make sure the Princess has next to no dialogue or personality?”
And so in 1959, we get the barely legal and largely mute Aurora to round off the decade for Disney Animation Studio films. My god the fifties went quicker than the decade that preceded it (although I expect a lot of people who lived through both decades felt the same way to be honest). At one point it felt like 1940’s Walt Disney was a never-ending trawl through propaganda and a few forgotten films that could be a hard watch even for someone who doesn’t break out in a cold sweat every time the Disney logo appears. The fifties, however, have flown by in comparison. ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where enjoyable enough, ‘Peter Pan’ showcased most of what makes Disney-fanatics fanatical but Disney-cynics cynical about their films, ‘Lady and the Tramp’ was the first true triumph in terms of changing the negative connotations I entered this project with, and now ‘Sleepy Beauty’ is already bringing the decade to a conclusion. But will the fifties have a happy ending?
Before the film starts, Kerry offers me a rare warning: For most of this love story, the heroine is literary just turning sixteen. So it’s a bit… you know… dodgy. However, the fact we’re going to be watching a story where the grooming of a minor is seemingly avoided by a mere fourteen hours or so, does at least have the silver lining of only containing one real song. That’s a pretty good silver lining. Some of the films have contained at least half a dozen too many. What she failed to mention is that this one song appears many, many times. She also failed to mention the song is ‘Once Upon a Dream’, which is famous enough that even I know it. And hate it.
As the narrator tells us about a King and Queen having a daughter called Aurora (which is a cracking name, always loved it), a random choir take it upon themselves to repeat everything that is said. I assume this won’t happen through the whole film as that might become annoying after a while. Saying that, it became annoying after the third time it happened. The King and Queen have arranged for Aurora to marry Prince Philip from a neighbouring kingdom when she grows up. Euuugh. I HATE the arranged marriage concept.
They throw a party to honour Aurora’s birth. Naturally, like at any good party, three fairies must give some presents. The first fairy, Flora, gives the gift of beauty, and waves her wand. She could have given the gift of intelligence, positivity or perhaps the ability to fly. But no, she just makes sure she’s good eye-candy. Flora also clearly doesn’t have faith in the King and Queens genetics to pass on some aesthetically pleasing features themselves. The second fairy, Fauna, gives the gift of song… The gift of song. Again, she could probably hold a tune anyway, and does this gift really have useful applications in the real world? She could have given the gift of intelligence, positivity or perhaps the ability to fly… The third fairy, Merryweather… Merryweather? Plants, Animals and Merryweathers…. Right then. The only ‘Merryweather’ I’ve heard of is a security company in ‘Grand Theft Auto 5’ but I doubt she was named after that… Anyway, she’s about to give her a no-doubt equally useful ability, probably being able to wiggle her ears or something, when a goth walks in.
This “evil fairy”, named Maleficent, with loads of dark eye makeup, black clothes and a penchant for saying how evil she is, is really pissed off about not being invited to the party. So yeah, a goth then. Something needs to be addressed here. Most evil people don’t think they’re being evil. Hitler. Stalin. Kanye. None of them acted how they did, because they thought they were being dastardly. They all believed they were doing what they were doing, or saying what they were saying, for the greater good. Even Kanye. Their highly questionable goals were the cause of their nefarious actions. Of course this doesn’t excuse any of them in any way. But to celebrate being evil, as well as all the forces of evil, is just plain attention seeking in my opinion. Bit like a goth again.
Now because she didn’t get invited to the party, she casts a spell which states that Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, before sunset on her sixteenth birthday, and die. That is a really specific sequence of events. She could have just killed Aurora there and then. But instead she decides to go with the “James Bond villain” approach of an unnecessarily drawn out and complex death containing multiple potential pitfalls. Why?! Again, Maleficent is coming across as an attention-seeking-psycho-….goth.
So, conveniently, there are loopholes that can create much hope, drama and potentially save the day. Merryweather says “hold my beer” (if your siblings were called Flora and Fauna and you were the runt who was left with the name ‘Merryweather’ you would probably drink profusely too) and decides to use her spell to act as a counter to Maleficent’s. Quite a convenient plot-device, however, is that Merryweather’s spell can’t just stop Maleficent’s, it can only offer a ray of hope at the end of it. They’re really setting up the potential for drama and excitement, aren’t they? This counter-spell will stop Aurora dying, but she will be unconscious and can be revived by love’s kiss. So, simply put. Merryweather’s IDEAL solution to wake Aurora here, is to most likely find a random dude that is willing to make out with an unaware, unconscious sixteen-year-old girl. In fairness, the odds of that happening are disconcertingly high, but surely, she should be taking into consideration the nature of the suitors this is likely to attract.
After the spell is cast, the fairies also agree to hide Aurora for sixteen years to keep her safe. All the spinning wheels are to be destroyed too. All in all, a pretty crappy day for the King and Queen. They probably wish they just sent out one extra party invitation now. Although I can understand why they didn’t invite Maleficent to their party due to her love of being evil and the fact she’d probably keep flooding the stereo with Cradle of Filth or My Chemical Romance.
Sixteen years later and Maleficent still has no idea where Aurora is. She is still obsessed with finding her. All because she didn’t get a baby shower invite. SIXTEEN YEARS AGO! ABSOLUTE PSYCHO! How two dimensional can any character be?!!! This is just beyond stupid. She has a load of weird, shadow like demon animals that she bosses around as well. They haven’t found her because they were still looking for a baby. Dipshits. Off they go to look again.
Now. Disney being stupid alert. The plan is to return Aurora, or as she’s been renamed whilst in hiding, Briar Rose, to the castle on her birthday. Before sunset. Before when the spell is supposed to come to pass. You hid her for sixteen years and apparently the day when the shit is supposed to go down, you return her back to the castle. Why?! Wait ONE MORE DAY!
Either way, Briar Rose has spent the last sixteen years living happily in the woods, and probably getting into all sorts of hijinks with her three temporary mums (or if you’re North American, Moms). It sounds like the premise for an 80’s American sitcom. And she has no idea who she really is. The three temporary fairy-mums are trying to make a cake and dress for their temporary daughters’ birthday. Obviously, even more hijinks occur. Just like a sitcom. I have a theme tune forming in my head.
Now we meet Briar Rose who is doing what all princesses do in their spare time, it seems. Talking at wildlife. Now how do I put this. She looks… sort of… well put it this way, as she’s awake right now, the film’s title is currently deceptive on two counts. I just don’t find her attractive. Is this a common thought or am I alone thinking this? And don’t forget, she was given the gift of beauty. You would think that spell would absolutely make her a ten. But in my view Cinderella was hotter. As well as many of the princesses I’ve seen since. I wonder if the gift of song spell worked. I get my answer very soon afterwards when she starts to warble at the wildlife. As I suspected. Many dodgy spells were cast. Better voice than Snow White though.
As she sings and plays with the animals a dude overhears her and cops a perv from the bushes with his horse. He then does what all dudes in Disney-Princess-Land do when they meet an attractive piece of jailbait: Appears from nowhere and starts singing and dancing with her. This has no doubt given a few generations of Disney-loving girls nothing but disappointment in their teens and early twenties when they discover the reality of this courting ritual is more commonly a wasted dickhead slurring how he wants to finger her while his even bigger dickhead mates watch on smirking. They sing that ‘Once Upon a Dream’ song from the film’s opening credits. Briar Rose immediately falls in love. Because of course. Fortunately, unbeknownst to them both, they are already arranged to be wed in the future, as this perv with a horse is in fact Prince Phillip. She suddenly realises she needs to get home, but she invites him over to hers later that day. Remember kids, on your first day of being legal, tell an older guy that’s been watching you from the bushes where you live. That’s smart thinking. All the time I’ve been watching this, it’s been hard to concentrate as I’ve been more focused on developing the theme song and intro credits to my “new” eighties’ sitcom ‘My Three Mums’.
My theme song has a few too many syllables in the last line. Otherwise I’m quite happy with it.
Meanwhile the fairies have made a shit cake. One thing leads to another and they have a wand war for some reason and cause magic sparks to erupt everywhere, in the process giving their location away. I’m not really paying attention as I’m humming the theme tune to ‘My Three Mums’. Briar Rose comes home singing ‘Once Upon a Dream’ and declare that she’s in love with a random dude she’s just met. She’s informed that she is in fact a princess that already has a marriage arranged for her to a dude called Phillip. Bombshell. The news is taken as you would expect by a hormonal teenager. She runs upstairs throwing a tantrum. Not shocked about the magnitude of the news. Not ecstatic that she is a princess that one day will become a queen. Not angry that she is trapped to a potentially enforced, loveless marriage. No, she’s just pissed that she therefore can’t marry the dude SHE’S JUST MET! Bloody teenagers. There’s no reasoning with them.
The two kings that have decided to force their children together in potentially unholy matrimony are hanging out and getting drunk. Some random dude with a guitar keeps stealing the wine and gets completely inebriated. Disney once again continuing their love of smoking and alcohol abuse in their early family films… Aurora / Briar Rose’s father is already thinking about grandkids. She’s sixteen for crying out loud. Later Phillip turns up to tell his father that he has fallen in love with a peasant girl. For some reason that doesn’t go down too well.
The three mums bring Briar Rose (or Aurora as I guess she’s now known again) back to the castle. She’s about to meet her parents for the first time and see the huge castle where she will start her life as a princess. But she’s still sulking that she can’t marry the dude that, I reiterate, SHE’S JUST MET! Even for a teenage girl, this is getting a bit ridiculous. Her problems are about to get worse though thanks to that wand fight, moving her a day earlier than necessary and the bizarre decision upon reaching the castle to leave Aurora on her own for a bit. Seriously, the fairies have royally fucked this whole thing up, SIXTEEN YEARS work and concealment down the drain for nothing!!! Maleficent entrances Aurora and lures her to the very special spinning wheel she has prepared. Just rereading that previous sentence really drives home how absurd and tenuous this whole thing is. Aurora pricks her finger and falls asleep. Maleficent has a good old cackle.
Fortunately the fairies have a simple way to cover up their kerfuckery. They’ll just put everybody in the kingdom to sleep until this whole thing blows over. See, simple. Seriously, these fairies good or goth, are fucking up the kingdom for everyone. Flora then finds out from Phillip’s father that Phillip has fallen in love with a peasant girl and has been singing that ‘Once Upon a Dream’ song. And the penny drops that it’s Phillip that Aurora fell in love with. How very convenient. What’s less convenient is that Maleficent has captured him.
But remember. These fairies are experts in fucking up. Whilst taunting Phillip, Maleficent tells him who the girl he wants to bang is, what she has done to her and where she is. It’s really like Maleficent tries to make things as hard for herself as possible. She says it will be the first time in sixteen years she sleeps well. All this because she didn’t get a party invite. And all this because she cast a spell that took sixteen years to implement. She’s brought it all on herself!
The good fairies then turn up to rescue Phillip. They also arm him with a fuck-off-big sword. I should probably mention at this point that Maleficent has a black crow. I should have mentioned him before, but what with all the other nonsensical happenings I wanted to talk about, as well as writing the intro for ‘My Three Mums’, I forgot. Either way, the good fairies turn him to stone, much to Maleficent’s chagrin. Phillip, now back on his horse, fends off the creepy shadow animals and escapes. So now she’s more pissed off than ever. As Phillip runs towards the castle where Aurora is sleeping, Maleficent casts spells shooting bolts of lightning at the pathways that are holding him up. After that fails, she has no choice but to cast the most heinous and potent of spell of all to stop him: BIG THORNY BUSHES. TAKE THAT PHILLIP! But as he now has a fuck-off-big sword he just cuts through it and keeps going… So then she resorts to plan C, which is to turn into a giant fire-breathing dragon and fly in front of him, ready to attack. A questionable order for the spells in my opinion. So the hierarchy of attack for an evil fairy: disrupt your foe’s transport network, then whilst they’re reeling, finish them off with dense shrubbery. If they somehow survive, as a desperate last resort, become a giant dragon that can incinerate everything…
However, perhaps there was a good reason for her not to have too much faith in the giant dragon idea, as Phillip throws the sword at her and kills her… It’s great that we get a proper comeuppance for a villain for a change. There hasn’t been one since the very first film, Snow White. And my word it’s satisfying. Not as satisfying as in Snow White, but very pleasing none the less. Hang on, doesn’t Maleficent have a spin-off film later on? Maybe she doesn’t die? Kerry has informed me that it’s a prequal. Ooh, that could be interesting. I predict that it will be the story of a bullied teen who one day is introduced to a Marilyn Manson album. It could make sense of everything.
So Phillip makes out with Aurora, everyone wakes up, The Kings are delighted to find their kids are getting it on and they all live happily ever after. Except Maleficent, who’s dead.
This was an ok film. The worst of the three Princess films so far as there was quite a bit of rehashing, particularly from Snow White. But generally it’s a sub-genre of Disney I don’t mind too much. I think that might be less ‘praise for Princess films’ and more ‘criticism of their action films’, but it wasn’t a dreadful way to spend eighty minutes and to top it all off I’m going to change the world for the better, once I build a time-machine, travel back to 1985, and take my sitcom idea to some TV execs.