First of all, I love Aladdin.
When I get asked about my top Disney movies of all time (possibly coming in a future post), the Middle Eastern folk tale always lands in my top three. Ever since my childhood, the animated classic has ALWAYS landed in my top 3. Considering Disney’s success of live-action remakes, I wasn’t overly concerned, even with the hate on Will Smith’s Genie.
Was it a train wreck? No. But was it spectacular? Read on.
(This review is spoiler-free)
The retelling of the 1992 animated classic follows Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a kind-hearted street urchin, as he falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). He has competition from power-hungry Grand Vizier, Jafar (Marwin Kenzari), for her hand. With the help of a magic lamp and a wish-granting Genie (Will Smith), Aladdin seeks to win Jasmine’s heart and battle the wicked Jafar.
This movie had a tremendous amount of spectacle with the special effects. The camera work for the stunts were great, mainly in Aladdin’s parkour-style runs through the streets of the desert kingdom of Agrabah. There are some things that work with his style and some that don’t, but then again Guy Ritchie was always an odd choice to helm this romantic musical, considering his history is steeped in comedy crime and capers. The pacing felt a little disjointed which took me out of the film for a time or two but since this isn’t really his genre, I suppose Ritchie can get a break there.
Mena Massoud did a wonderful job as the title character, making Aladdin a character that audience members could get behind from start to finish. From his humble start to discovering the wise-talking magical being to his facade as Prince Ali, the heart of Aladdin stayed true and likable to root for. Naomi Scott made Jasmine a stronger character than her animated counterpart, obviously supported by the women’s revolution going on currently in Hollywood. Like the live-action Beauty and the Beast before it, a new song was created for one of the main characters…and I loved it. The full version of the song had an awkward placing in the film, which took me out of the movie for a short period. Overall, the two main leads put in exceptional performances. The portrayal of Jafar could have been more better, not reaching the villainy of the animated sorcerer.
One main issue I had dealt with these characters: I didn’t really believe that they were in love. The on-screen chemistry wasn’t there for me. My favorite scene in the original film is the singing of “A Whole New World”. One of the best love songs in movie history is something that I thought was the true test of the film. Aladdin and Jasmine’s love story was the heart of the animated classic and it just fell flat in this remake. It wasn’t a total failure but the chemistry could have been worked on better. A more believable love story to buy into would have been a huge help.
And speaking of heart, the Genie of the lamp brought that and comedy of the original with the legendary Robin Williams creating a classic character. With a role like that, Williams left some big shoes to fill. Will Smith doesn’t try to recreate Williams’ performance but puts his own spin on the character; also known as the Big Willie Treatment. Smith brings fresh attitude and energy to the role. His hip-hop flavor — especially during the genie-led musical numbers — brought a smile to my face and made the film more enjoyable.
The music doesn’t remain as iconic as the animated classic’s original soundtrack but it does a satisfactory job in making each song have its own feel and establishing it’s own legacy. If you listen to the soundtrack, Naomi Scott’s “Speechless” is hot recommendation.
Is this movie as good as the classic? No. Is it boring? No. It fits in the gray area of being functional movie that’s magical and enjoyable, even it if doesn’t approach the brilliant spectacle of the animated original.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
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