Sleeping Beauty isn’t my favorite fairy tale (although I’ve written an adaptation of it), but Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney princess movie of the classic era, and is among the top even for the modern movies. It’s not because of the title character, herself, who does very little in this story. It’s because this is the first “princess” movie in which the prince is an actual character. He gets a name that’s actually used onscreen. He has a personality! We get our first hint of that when they show him as a child meeting the infant Aurora and clearly not being impressed. He gets to do stuff! We actually see his conversation with his father about who he wants to marry instead of hearing it secondhand (as happened in Cinderella). He gets captured by Maleficent and fights a dragon. In short, he gets to be heroic. Prince Philip has been my animated boyfriend for most of my life. I’m a little embarrassed by how many times I saw this movie when it was re-released when I was in my late teens, and most of it was because I was crushing on Philip.
I’m not sure he’s really the hero of the story, though. If you look at it structurally, the fairies appear to be the protagonists. They’re the ones who come up with the plan to save Aurora, then they go rescue Philip and help him battle Maleficent. He does a lot of the work, but they’re the ones who have the goal from the start and have the plan to achieve the goal.
On the other hand, they’re also the ones who almost ruin everything. There’s a lot of Too Stupid To Live going on in this movie, which has the effect of weakening Maleficent. She doesn’t have to be all that clever to get the drop on the good guys when they practically hand it all to her on a silver platter. The biggest error is that they spend 16 years keeping Aurora safe, only to take her back to the place where she’s most in danger at the time she’s most in danger, right before the curse deadline. Would it have killed them to wait until the next day before breaking cover? At least wait until after sunset. Not that Maleficent would have abided by that deadline. There was nothing stopping her from harming Aurora after sunset on her 16th birthday. Still, they didn’t have to hand it to her so easily. And then there’s the mess with the magical wands. First, there’s the problem of how they lived without magic for 16 years and still didn’t know how to cook or sew at all. The discussion I’ve seen mentions that they switched off roles for this occasion, but even if you’d only watched someone else bake you’d know you don’t just fold whole eggs in the shell into the batter or ice the cake and put on the candles before you bake it. Wanting to do something you’ve never done before when it’s a special occasion is rather egotistical. Then they gave away their location to the villain by having a petty spat over what color the dress should be (blue).
This is one I’d like to see a live-action remake of, along the lines of the way they did Cinderella, where it wasn’t a direct remake of the animated movie but rather a new telling of the same story, using some of the same elements. In this case, I wouldn’t mind a closer remake since I’d want to keep the stuff created for this movie like the battle with the dragon. But undo some of the Too Stupid To Live stuff from the fairies and maybe flesh out the relationship between Philip and Aurora. Maybe they’ve been meeting in the woods for some time and have become friends. She’s already living under an assumed name, and maybe he’d make up something because he doesn’t want to be seen as a prince. He’s enjoying just being himself. I wouldn’t even mind skipping the music because the musical numbers aren’t all that memorable. The music itself is, but the “musical” elements in this movie are kind of weak. I would even be okay with losing the Tchaikovsky score and letting Patrick Doyle do his thing (in this movie of my dreams, the whole Cinderella team does it, and if we have Kenneth Branagh, that means we have Patrick Doyle).
I saw the ballet this movie is based on a few years ago, and I was surprised by how out-of-context the music is in the movie. The “Once Upon a Dream” music isn’t a romantic pas de deux in the ballet. It’s just the village girls dancing at a festival.
Some fun trivia: The voice actor for Philip dubbed the singing for Freddie in the movie version of My Fair Lady, so he’s the guy who sings “On the Street Where You Live” on the soundtrack. I grew up hearing both Sleeping Beauty and My Fair Lady and can’t believe it took me that long to make the connection (it was only when I got the My Fair Lady soundtrack on CD that they credited the actual singers). Now, though, it’s really obvious when I hear it.
This week’s sermon is tied to Beauty and the Beast, so that will be this weekend’s movie.