Sleeping Beauty Review
By Christopher Null
It's a shame that Sleeping Beauty is saddled with such a sissy title. It's really quite the adventure, with a horse-riding hero, a spell-flinging evil fairy, and even a freakin' dragon! This is also the movie that the now-ubiquitous Magic Kingdom is taken from, it's where our titular heroine, aka Aurora hails from. But when that evil wench Maleficent (like the evil queen from Snow White but with horns) casts a spell that ensures she'll die from being pricked from a spinning wheel, three good fairies take Aurora into the woods, dub her Briar Rose, and try to keep her from harm. By the movie's midpoint, Rose has grown up to her teens, met the love of her life, and has finally been pricked by that wheel, and only through the good magic of the fairies does she stay alive, trapped in an unending slumber. And so our hero Prince Phillip rides into Maleficent's castle, showing down her evil minions and finally Maleficent herself (who takes the form of that dragon I mentioned). Awesome!
Beauty remains one of Disney's finest works. It was unequivocally the best animated film of its era up until arguably The Jungle Book (1967) or even Disney's comeback with The Little Mermaid (1989), depending on your point of view. It succeeds thanks to its awesome score -- borrowed from Tchaikovsky's waltzes -- as well as unprecedentedly detailed animation (dig the backgrounds) and its insanely over-the-top villain ("Me, the mistress of all evil!"). There's no freakin' singing animals or easy solution to the problem -- the prince has to hack his way through a wall of thorns then beat down a dragon in order to get his lady back! Young kids may not really dig the non-caricatured imagery and the lack of child-friendly messages; this isn't exactly the kind of movie you sing along to. (Poor Tchaikovsky missed the Mickey Mouse Club era by about a century.)
The story is unfortunately a little drawn out (lots of cake-making and such before we get to the meat of the story) and not terribly surprising, but such are the typical constraints of animation. The new Disney DVD adds a number of extras, but not much of them are worth watching. An Oscar-winning short from 1958 can be found on disc two, and there's an exhaustively informative (but deathly snoozy) commentary track on the remastered feature disc.
Definitely one to own, even if that second DVD never comes out of the box.
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Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 6th February 1959
Box Office Worldwide: $51M
Distributed by: Buena Vista
Production compaines: Walt Disney Productions
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 3
Cast & Crew