“Honey Boy” is not an act of justification. It does not rationalize his decisions. But it is a reminder that LaBeouf is here, and unafraid of what’s to come.
In retrospect, cinephiles didn’t fully appreciate what they had with 2014’s Maleficent, a live-action retelling of a Disney animated classic that actually added something new to a tale as old as time. In addition to the pitch-perfect casting of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, the horned villain from Disney’s 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast screenwriter Linda Woolverton added a daring feminist spin to the source material. Since Maleficent’s release, Disney’s live-action remakes have gotten progressively less and less original, culminating in 2019’s abysmal shot-for-shot remake of The Lion King. Thankfully, Maleficent is back to inject some much-needed originality into the House of Mouse’s live-action slate in the sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
While it’s following up a film that drastically upended its fairy tale source material, Mistress of Evil doesn’t have any significant connection to the Sleeping Beauty mythos anymore. Instead, it feels like an epic fantasy trilogy crammed into a single film and sandwiched in the middle of a fairy tale sitcom. The film is simultaneously a world-building bonanza, a melodramatic anti-war parable with imagery that lightly evokes the Holocaust, and a high-camp soap opera that features Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Elle Fanning as three contrasting archetypes of femininity. It’s a tonal mess, but it has admirable confidence in its gonzo sensibilities. In addition to Disney fans, who will find it comes with plenty of loving homages to past Disney princess films, Mistress of Evil will appeal equally to audiences who love big, bonkers genre storytelling like Jupiter Ascending or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.