Believe it or not, back in the day I actually went to a movie theater and saw Maleficent. It was a Friday night – June 6th, to be exact. Presumably I had tried to make plans and failed utterly, because I can imagine no other situation in which I would go to such a screening of my own free will. But there I sat, already having watched a true masterpiece earlier in the evening – Bonnie and Clyde. Guess which film I ended up writing about that night. Maleficent was so middle-of-the-road that I couldn’t even think of a couple sentences to toss off on Letterboxd. Instead I just rated the movie: 2/5 stars, which seems high in retrospect. I must have liked some aspect of the movie, though earlier tonight I could not for the life of me remember what it was. Surely watching the movie again with a bunch of comedians talking over it ought to refresh my memory. Right?
I’m no stranger to the Benson Movie Interruptions, a series of events wherein standup comedian and ubiquitous podcast presence Doug Benson and his cadre of funny friends riff over a recent film Mystery Sciene Theater 3000-style. It is a good way to watch a movie you were purposefully avoiding like John Carter or Now You See Me, but it is a peculiar way to do a rewatch. When I saw Thor: The Dark World (wow, January) again in this format, I did find myself second-guessing what I liked about the movie in the first place. But Maleficent wasn’t exactly fighting for a place on my best-of list.
For those who have forgotten (or just never knew in the first place) Maleficent is Disney’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the titular villain. Because no one asked for it! Angelina Jolie stars, and is supported mostly by disgusting CGI creatures, but also a couple real life humans. Sharlto Copley plays the scheming (Scottish?) peasant who is willing to do anything to gain power, including mutilate Maleficent’s wings in a poorly executed rape metaphor. After writing that sentence is there really anything else to say? Sure. The film also features Elle Fanning as Sleeping Beauty, Sam Riley as a crow that turns into a human, and Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville as fairies who live squarely inside the uncanny valley.
The movie is still not good, and it seems I found even less to like this time because I would be hard-pressed to give this movie two whole stars. Maybe I was more forgiving then, or less jaded, but the only redeemable aspect of Maleficent is Angelina Jolie’s performance, particularly as she becomes more and more attached to the young child she so impulsively cursed. Sure, Jolie is a big part of the film, but when everything around her – from the script to the special effects to Sharlto Copley – is so bad, there’s no way this movie gets more than one and a half.
Luckily I wasn’t completely torturing myself. The bitter pill went down a lot easier thanks to the comedic stylings of Benson, Greg Proops, Seán Cullen, and Ben Schwartz. What a dream team of interrupters. If this were my first time at a Benson Interruption, I would be incredibly grateful to the person who brought me. Everyone was on point. Proops made the classic over-your-head references that hit like an atomic bomb when you get them, Cullen sang narrative songs throughout the feature whenever prompted to do so, and Schwartz used that lady-swooning charm to elicit giggles and guffaws all night. All the while, Benson stood by, ready to snipe whenever the opportunity arose. In the words of a man who wasn’t Frankie Valli, “Oh, what a night.”
So get on down to Cinefamily on Fairfax Avenue when you get the chance. A Benson Movie Interruption never fails to entertain. The movies may be bad, but the experience is so, so good.