Film Review: Aladdin

A Whole New World…

Aladdin (2019) is yet another Disney live action remake trying to cash in on nostalgia from their vast animated library. Following in the footsteps of its animated predecessor is enough, yet it has to match up to such box office juggernauts as the live action versions of Beauty and the Beast, the Jungle Book, and even Alice in Wonderland. Coming off the flop that is Dumbo however, has Disney lost the thread? Or does Aladdin bring the streak back?

Aladdin is a near beat-for-beat remake of the original animated movie. You probably know the plot by now- street urchin meets princess, steals lamp for, and from evil Vizier, releases Genie from lamp, gets three wishes. There are a few minor updates from the 1992 version though. Princess Jasmine gets a handmaiden and a new song, and Iago gets a lot less lines. The Genie also expresses a longing to become human, something that was never apparent in Robin William’s portrayal of him. Otherwise, this is virtually identical to the animated classic.

I guess we’ll get down to it- this film relies almost wholly on nostalgia for the original, unless you’re young enough to never watch the original. It is inferior in almost every way to the original. The good news is it’s not by much; this remake is at least competently made and produced. But it’s really only a 7, maybe an 8 at best compared to the original’s 9. It’s watchable, enjoyable even. But the 1992 version is strictly better.

That said, I did have a good time watching this film. Despite the trailers, Will Smith put up a good act as the Genie. While he will and always come in second (third maybe depending on how you view the musical) to Robin Williams, Smith does the best given that he has some big(BIG) shoes to fill. He’s funny, and infuses his version of the genie with enough character to make his portrayal distinct from Robin’s. Unfortunately, Smith cannot hold a tune to save his life. Kinda makes Prince Ali fall flat.

Mena Massoud as Aladdin is forgettable and bland, despite the fact that he is the protagonist and gets the most screen time. Likewise Marwan Kenzari as Jaraar is completely ineffectual. It’s just not a good fit. He never comes off as evil as his animated counterpart and he doesn’t possess the gravitas and stature to pull off his evil antics. It’s as if a kid was trying to play a villain. The over the top acting style Kenzari employs doesn’t help either.

On the other hand Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine is lovely. She is one of the few marked improvements from the original, being more fleshed out and prominent. Her motivations have changed from simply becoming yet another damsel in distress and the film is mostly better for it. Nasim Pedrad as Dalia is also a great addition to the cast, adding some comedic relief that was stripped from the original through the remaking process, and also giving some motivation and plot to the Genie.

Unfortunately, due to the live action nature of the remake, several characters were severely shafted. Apu, Iago, Rajah and Magic Carpet get way less screen time, lines and character development. Iago in particular is relegated to repeating lines or sprouting one liners. None of the Gilbert Gottfried charm and rasp that made him work. Magic carpet is likewise almost strictly vehicle material. Rajah is just background scenery. Apu fares the best, but the CGI work can be a bit off at times, making him look horrifying. It’s the eyes.

The music is hit or miss. Speechless, Jasmine’s new number in particular can be divisive. I hated it, but it seems like people love it. To me it was unnecessary and badly placed in the context of the film. But opinions differ of course. At least Naomi Scott delivers the song well. Prince Ali and Friend like me survive the transition although you might argue that the CGI does not match up to the animation of the original. Arabian Nights gets a lyrical update for the better, removing the problematic verses. A Whole New World largely makes it through, although the fantastical nature of the original is tuned down in favor of a more comfortable cruise. Less loop-the-loops and breaking noses.

Really though, the remake had to nail 2 scenes for me. A Whole New World, and Genie’s freedom scene. This remake nails both by my account. In fact, I would go as far to say that the remake does the latter better. Will Smith’s reaction to being set free is perhaps not as exaggerated and teary as Robin’s, but the scene packs a more emotion punch for me. The fact that Will Smith, a black man playing an slave being set free, just adds to the weight of the moment. Seeing him get his happy ending with Dalia really makes the movie for me.

In the end, Aladdin is a solid film. Like most of the other remakes, it is solidly outclassed by the original. It’s not my favorite of the remakes; Cinderella still takes the top spot. But Aladdin is a safe, inoffensive addition to the Disney library, and is a crowd pleaser. It did make a billion dollars at the box office after all.

Objective: 7.5/10

Personal: 8/10


WRITTEN BY silogore