“Aladdin” stars Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, and Numan Acar. Released on May 24, 2019, the film is about a thief who uses a magic lamp to win the heart of the princess.
The film is directed by Guy Ritchie, who also directed films such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch”, “Sherlock Holmes”, and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”. It is a remake of the 1992 animated film of the same name, which is based on the Arabic folktale of the same name from Antoine Galland’s One Thousand and One Nights. 2019 got off to a pretty rocky start when it comes to Disney’s live-action remakes. While their latest take on “Dumbo” didn’t soar as high as they thought it would in terms of critical reception, it earned a decent amount of money at the box office, although it wasn’t enough to classify it as profitable. On the bright side, it gave kids the opportunity to try to watch the original version…if they can find it, of course. Now that I got that out of the way, it’s time for me to turn my attention to this specific live-action remake that takes audiences back to the enchanting world of romance and magic. “Aladdin” has been widely beloved by everyone due to its beautiful animation, memorable songs, and Robin Williams’ iconic performance as the Genie. So it’s no wonder the live-action remake left a lot of people feeling concerned before its release, especially those who grew up watching the animated classic. It gained plenty of controversy since it started production, ranging from “whitewashing” to blue Will Smith. But I’m not talking about something as idiotic as that. I’m only talking about the film itself and how it compares to the other live-action remakes that Disney has been churning out throughout the past nine years. As usual, I’ll be reviewing this latest take on “Aladdin” as its own film without comparing it to the 1992 version in every sentence. I will be doing that on certain occasions, but for those who haven’t even watched the animated version, this is just another review of another ordinary film for families. With that said, let’s hop on the magic carpet and see how high it can soar.
The story in “Aladdin” is quite similar to the 1992 version. A thief falls in love with a princess, he finds a magic lamp that has a powerful genie inside, he uses it to impress the princess, and he has to thwart an evil vizier’s plot to take over the kingdom. For those who have seen the animated film a bunch of times, it’s pretty much what they would expect from a live-action remake of a Disney animated classic, and I am OK with that. It's a well known tale about being true to one's self, which is more powerful than magic itself. Their efforts in retelling this type of story to a new generation of kids were respectable. However, like any wish, they're not without a few setbacks. While the story was nicely told and full of charm, it had a hard time maintaining the amount of enthusiasm and wonder to make itself a bit more awe-inspiring. It didn't damage its entertainment value that much, but I was hoping that it would had a few surprises up its sleeve. Can't please everybody, I guess. Another issue I had with the remake was the pacing. Guy Ritchie has a knack at keeping things moving along with his style and visual flair, which can be good for young kids, but I felt they could’ve expanded some scenes a bit more without making the film too long (it’s over two hours long compared to the original film’s 90 minute runtime). Other than that, it was a pretty decent adventure that’s filled with solid characters and fun musical numbers. One of the things I can appreciate was the cast. Even though their performances were far from grand, they did an impressive job at making their characters their own. At first, I was a bit concerned about Mena Massoud as the title character based on the trailers I watched, but as the film went on, I started to warm up to him. There were a couple of moments where his acting felt a bit clunky, but Massoud was able to make up for those moments by providing plenty of charisma and charm into his character. As for Marwan Kenzari as the villainous Jafar, he didn’t do too bad. Jafar is the type of character who’s determined to be the most powerful man in the world and will go to great lengths to accomplish that goal. Kenzari was able to fit into his character’s shoes quite nicely, but like I said before, it’s far from grand. The only two standouts that I immensely enjoyed were Will Smith and Naomi Scott as Genie and Jasmine, respectively. To me, Smith was the best part of the film because he didn’t try to upstage Robin Williams and his role as the Genie in the 1992 version. He made the Genie his own character while retaining the magic and silliness that made him so dang lovable in the first place. If you’re wondering what I thought about his CGI genie form, let’s just say that there are other things that are worth complaining about. My only complaint about his character was the film’s attempt to give him a love story. In the film, Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (Pedrad), a character made exclusively for the remake, has a crush on the Genie because…well, he’s Will Smith. Seriously, how can you not fall for someone who’s as good-looking as him? I thought this was a neat idea because it would’ve made Smith’s character a bit more than just a source of comic relief. Unfortunately, the film failed to take full advantage of this idea, resulting in something that came off as pointless and unnecessary. It was sweet, but that’s about it. Naomi Scott had plenty to work with when it comes to portraying someone like Princess Jasmine, and I got to say, it paid off extremely well. What I really liked about Jasmine was that she’s not just a regular damsel in distress. She’s a confident young woman who’s determined to find the courage to speak out for the people. In other words, it’s another Disney remake that encourages female empowerment. Say what you want about that, but young girls need to learn about this type of stuff so that they too can be confident and wise. I also want to talk about the film’s musical numbers, which were the meat and cheese that made this Arabian sandwich so juicy and delectable. The remake has the songs that we all know and love from the original, such as “Arabian Nights”, “Friend Like Me”, and “A Whole New World”, along with a new song, “Speechless”, performed by Scott. The musical numbers were entertaining, nicely choreographed, and visually delightful, but none of them stood out as much as “Speechless”. Not only was it inspiring and meaningful, but it also served as a way to describe Jasmine’s character. Plus, Scott's singing voice was amazing.
Overall, Guy Ritchie’s live-action take on “Aladdin” has a few diamonds in the rough to impress the young kids and the nostalgic grown-ups. Despite its lack of enthusiasm and a familiar plot, this whole new world has enough spectacle in its cast, musical numbers, and visuals to avoid getting eaten by the Cave of Wonders. I would even say that it was a bit better than the live-action remake of “Dumbo”. I wouldn’t mind recommending this one to those who enjoyed the original version, especially kids. Your move, “Lion King”.