Sleeping Beauty is a timeless tale that has been told time and time again (but not nearly as often as Cinderella). It was one of the last films that Walt Disney personally oversaw, with the very last one being The Jungle Book. It is my favorite Disney film but even it has major flaws.
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom, la de dah you know it. Princess Aurora, raised as Briar Rose in the woods by three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather is coming upon her sixteenth birthday whereupon a curse placed on her by the wicked Maleficent will cause her to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Obviously this should mean you would consider bringing her back home and out of hiding after her sixteenth birthday and that every precaution would be taken without abandon…. Right?
Yeah, while the fairies of Maleficent are downright ignorantly abusive these ones here are just plain stupid at times. But they’re fun and adorable and good hearted, so we chalk it up to the curse affecting them so that it would be fulfilled. They truly want to protect Aurora, and that is all that matters in my book.
It is quite fortunate/unfortunate that on the day of her sixteenth birthday, Briar Rose is sent deep into the woods to find berries, which she’ll be happy to let you know she just picked up yesterday, and her lilting voice attracts the kindly animal-folk and, of course, a handsome young stranger. Having been raised to never talk to strangers but not how to avoid loopholes, Rose dances with the handsome stranger throughout the woods and they end up romantically leaning against a tree as the sun sets. Of course, this is where she decides to run a la Cinderella and the plot really kicks in. Maleficent proves herself a dangerous foe, to the point where she is one of, if not the most, powerful and frightening villains that Disney has ever crafted (Until Angelina Jolie came and gave her a well rounded personality of course, but that’s next week’s review!).
What Sleeping Beauty has over Snow White and Cinderella, the previous two Disney Princess flicks, is that the Prince actually has a character and he spends more than just a single song with Aurora before he declares his unyielding love for her. Where it fails in the same arena is the fact that the title character, Aurora, gets about a dozen or so lines of dialogue outside of singing, doesn’t talk for the entire second half of the movie (granted neither does the Prince), spends half the movie asleep, and overall suffers for screen time to accommodate the Three Good Fairies, Diablo, and Maleficent (who doesn’t fare much better herself really but then she also got a spin off with a hotter and sexier version of Diablo. Which may have made bestiality just the tiniest thought in your mind). Why is this problematic for a story about a slumbering princess? Because a lot more could have been spent developing her character before this and Phillip could have proven himself more capable without them if he had simply been given the chance.
My number one complaint of earlier Disney films has almost always been the lackluster treatment of our supposed main characters. When the comic relief gets more screen time than your title character there’s a serious problem. That Maleficent gave Aurora more screen time and development at the expense of other characters (namely Phillip but this is entirely justified in context) granted it was only about twenty minutes longer but most of that was spent on the prologue and epilogue while the meat of the story hinged closely (with alterations of course) to its source material, this movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love Sleeping Beauty, but even the things I love have flaws.