Aladdin is my favourite of Disney’s classic animations.
Naturally, I was very apprehensive when the trailer for the live-action remake dropped a big blue Will Smith in everyone’s face.
But after watching the full film, I can categorically say Smith’s take on the genie is the most charming and refreshing part of the film.
Director Guy Ritchie doesn’t waste any time in his 2019 adaptation.
The opening scenes breezes over the city of Agraba and the Cave of Wonders in minutes, squaring the focus on soon-to-be lovebirds, the street-rat Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott).
Their home is breathtakingly beautiful, bathed in colourful silks that bring the marketplace and the palace to life. The entire film is intentionally shot in that prominent style, which leans a little too far into fantasy to ever really sell the story as one that could have happened in reality (admittedly hard with a big blue genie and a pet tiger on the role call).
The remake is much longer than the original, clocking in with a more than two-hour run-time and the story has been beefed out a little. Jasmine is battling a culture where women should be “seen and not heard” while Jafar’s (Marwan Kenzari) desire to overthrow the Sultan stems from a thieving childhood on the streets of Agraba.
Jasmine’s character-arch brings out the best of the added musical numbers, but the track ‘Speechless‘ hardly compares to the original’s unforgettable tunes.
All of the heavy-hitters are here. ‘Friend Like Me‘, ‘Prince Ali‘ and ‘A Whole New World’ have been updated for the 21st century (gone is the reference to ‘slaves’), with the first two even featuring hip-hop inspired breakdowns. None hit the same heights as the originals, with the auto-tune used to hit the higher notes a little too noticeable. Visually, this rendition of ‘A Whole New World‘ fails to push the envelope in any way.
That being said, the choreography during ‘Prince Ali’ is spectacular. A number of dance scenes have been added throughout that are very Bollywood, while also adding humour thanks to Will Smith’s Genie.
Stepping into a role so synonymous with the late, Robin Williams must have been a daunting for the Bad Boys actor, who brings a distinctly different charm to a character intrinsically linked to Williams.
While the Genie is big and blue, the CG can be a little distracting. Thankfully, he spends the majority of the film looking like Will Smith with a top-knot. His scenes are easily the best in the film, and his absence in others highlights some unfortunately wooden acting.
Mena Massoud’s Aladdin looks like he’s trying a too hard to replicate his cartoon counterpart; overacting that can feel disingenuous at times. But his performance issues pale in comparison to that of Jafar.
Marwan Kenzari doesn’t feel anywhere near as calculating as he should. It’s less of a problem with his acting, and more with his costume and casting. Marwan is too young and too good-looking to capture the essence of Jafar’s aged, angular persona.
Regardless, I still thoroughly enjoyed this live-action adaptation of Aladdin. Will Smith had me laughing throughout and even though I know this story like the back of my hand, I was enthralled from start to finish.
Get through the first fifteen minutes and Aladdin is a movie that you SHOULD WATCH.