Sleeping Beauty (1959) Review — A Beautiful Mess

Sorry this one took so long to come out. Been a bit too busy to deal with Disney lately, but I haven’t forgotten about this project.

  • Sleeping Beauty is about a young girl who was cursed since birth by a wicked sorceress named Maleficent to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel at her sixteenth birthday and die simply because she got snubbed at a birthday party. That description is a bit odd when you say it out loud, but the movie is considered a classic tale not for the start of its premise, but for what happens afterwards. A good fairy changes the curse so that pricking her finger on a spindle will just put her in a sleep that can only be broken by true love’s first kiss and…yeah you know where the move goes from there as well as where the feels come in. And yes, I’m aware that said description is still weird even when you say it out loud.
  • Upon release, Sleeping Beauty was received to mixed reviews, gained a lot more acclaim over time, and then the Internet brought the reception down to mixed again. And that sort of mirrors my experience with the movie as well. I thought it was kinda dumb at first, grew to like it upon multiple rewatches growing up, and the adult me realizes how the story is kinda lame and outdated now.

Look at me, dancing around blandly, talking to the animals

  • And I mean even by the standards of the classic Disney Princess formula, which I think Sleeping Beauty is considered the poster child for. For starters, the lead couple barely has any screen time to begin with, let alone lines. All we know about them are their feelings for each other and the circumstances surrounding them. Plus, when you get down to it, they’re not exactly the best-looking princesses and princes that Disney has churned out before and since. I can’t exactly imagine anyone over thirteen saying Aurora is their favorite Disney princess.
  • Sleeping Beauty loves its side characters alot more than its main couple, and boy does it show. The fucking kings get more screen time and plot importance than the lead couple for crying out loud, and most of the time we see them is during a random dinner scene where they anxiously await Aurora’s return after the three good fairies keep her in hiding for sixteen years. Never mind that they’re ultimately inconsequential or we never see their wives get developed. Who needs screen time dedicated to Phillip’s own personal goals in life when we can have drunk banter that doesn’t go anywhere?
  • But of course, they don’t have it as bad (or good depending on your point of view) as the fairies. They pretty much do everything in this movie whilst getting no character development from their actions to boot. They hide the princess from the evil witch. They’re practically her mothers…although don’t think too hard about that implication. They have to save the prince when he gets captured. They’re ultimately the ones who power up the sword that kills Maleficent at the end. And despite all that, the movie treats them as comical bystanders who don’t get anything resembling growth at all beyond learning what it means to raise a daughter. Wow. Way to not realize what a good thing you’ve got going on.

Even when they’re small, these fairies get more shit done than any of the other characters combined

  • However, Maleficent is what pretty much everyone remembers Sleeping Beauty for. From her voice to her design to her commitment to evil, is it really a wonder that the live-action remake of this property focused on her? Personally, I think she’s cool, but a tad overrated. I always thought her turning into a dragon seemed like a downgrade from actual magic, even if years of Harry Potter and Dragon Age have proven me wrong on that. And the way she went down in just two minutes to a guy who had no voice after the halfway point was a bit lame.
  • Not that I’m saying I dislike Sleeping Beauty. Despite the flawed narrative and leads, there’s a certain charm to the other characters’ filler antics that I can’t quite deny, and the visuals themselves are freaking awesome. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s Disney’s best technically-made film like I know other people do, but it’s certainly a style you’d be hard-pressed to see anywhere else. Plus, I admit to finding that “Once Upon a Dream” song kind of catchy.

What’s that? A movie that makes that me sympathetic will be released in six decades? Well we can’t have that now, can we?

  • However, it has aged very badly in today’s world. Even moreso than Cinderella. And I’ve very hard-pressed to defend it if it ever gets shown at a feminist rally or a friends’ movie night. Whether or not you watch the film after knowing all that is up to you at the end of the day.

Minor Quips

  • Looking to get more into the Silver Age of Disney after getting through twenty more video games. Damn, 2017 is stacked.
  • But on the flipside, at least I’m dedicating less time to crappy TV shows now.

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