2019, PG, 128 mins.
Mena Massoud as Aladdin / Naomi Scott as Jasmine / Will Smith as Genie / Marwan Kenzari as Jafar / Navid Negahban as The Sultan / Nasim Pedrad as Dalia / Billy Magnussen as Prince Anders / Alan Tudyk as Iago / Frank Welker as Abu (voice) / The Cave of Wonders (voice)
Directed by Guy Ritchie / Written by John August and Guy Ritchie
to what many people think, I don’t despise all Disney remakes of their
past animated properties. I thought PETE’S
DRAGON, for example, was an absolutely stupendous remake and one
of the best family films of its year. And it legitimately improved and
expanded upon its antecedent.
that also wasn’t a remake of a cherished/iconic classic that was adored
by both critics and audiences. There’s a cynicism to Disney re-imgining
their animated films into live action regurgitations, like the recent BEAUTY
AND THE BEAST and now ALADDIN, because they’re all about
soulless technique and regurgitating all the beats of past and far
superior work for cash grab purposes.
Watching the original 1992 ALADDIN there was a sense of innocent
and joyous discovery. There’s really none of that with the live action
“upgrade”; it’s made without much creativity, wit, or sense of
wonder. And that’s why I have a big problem with most of these Disney
some moments of superficial visual splendor, but it’s an aggressively
pedestrian and generic kind of needless remake without much of a genuine
heart. That, and it pathetically feels like a high school musical with a
budget in the hundreds of millions.
are very little - if any - embellishments made to the iconic original
here, outside of a few minor changes here and there.
Providing a plot synopsis for this new version may seem
unnecessary, but for the very few of you on this planet that have not see
the '92 version, here's the deal:
The titular character (Mena Massoud) is a petty street thief in
Agrabah, who one day has a chance encounter with the beautiful Princess
Jasmine (POWER RANGERS' Naomi
Scott), who journeys out into public in disguise so she can see how the
When the smitten Aladdin tracks her back to her palace (and also to
return one of her lifted bracelets), he learns that - gasp! - she's
actually a princess that's being positioned by her father to marry the
next suitable prince that comes her way.
Realizing that he doesn't have a proverbial chance in hell with
her, seeing as he's a lowly peasant,
Aladdin feels dejected...that is until he meets Jafar (Marwan
who uses the young lad to help him gain access to a secret Cave of Wonders
to retrieve a magical lamp (granted, Jafar wants to use the powers of the
lamp to release its genie to grant him world dominating powers).
Well, Aladdin manages to make it out of the cave with the lamp, but
rubs it himself, which unleashes the all-powerful genie (Will Smith), who
grants him three wishes.
Predictably, Aladdin ask to be made a prince (for obvious personal
gain with Jasmine), but just when things look like they're about to go
Aladdin's way the evil Jafar shows up and makes everyone's lives extremely
for the positives, I will say this: ALADDIN looks pretty spiffy and
provides an ample amount of big screen scale and spectacle with
introducing viewers to the live action world of Agrabah (the opening
sections and introduction to the city are done with long and unbroken
shots, signaling the arrival of Aladdin on the streets below, which is
pretty nifty to watch).
Now, director Guy Ritchie is, at face value, a very odd choice to
helm a family friendly film like this, especially a romantic musical to
acclimates himself reasonably well, but there are times when he seems a
bit reticent as to how he's supposed to quarterback the film's multiple
There's some odd creative choices peaking through here and there,
like a very distracting instance of Ritchie using sped up motion during
one number (in this instance, the actors still weirdly sing at normal
speed), which feels like it all doesn't match and hold together.
Ritchie doesn't seem to have faith enough in his performers to
simply let his camera linger on them and let their vocal power sell the
the song recreations range from mediocre to serviceable throughout.
Some of them - including "Prince Ali" and "Friend
Like Me" - sound more like loose jam sessions than a full on effort.
Only "A Whole New World" feels like it contains anything
approximating an energetic pulse.
One thing that's interesting to note is that the legendary and late
Robin Williams - who famously voiced the genie in the original film, in
one of the most beloved voice performances of all time - had no formal
singing training when he accepted his gig, but his renditions of the songs
felt uniquely his own.
When Will Smith - an actor and musician of bountiful street cred -
belts out his versions of them they seem to lack personality.
When it comes to Smith's appearance in the film taking over a role
that has become such a legendary part of Williams' career, comparisons
between the pair seem inevitable.
Smith thankfully doesn't go for mimicking Williams, but rather
infuses his own comedic flavor into the role and somehow miraculously
makes the part feel new. Even
though he appears throughout the film alternating between human form and
some highly questionable CGI as the blue skinned genie, Smith nevertheless
seems equal to the Herculean challenge here and arguably might be one of
the saving performance graces of ALADDIN redux.
the rest of the acting ensemble built around him barely make any sizable
lingering and lasting power. As
the main character, Massoud certainly is a handsome looking Aladdin and
brings spunk to the role, but he's not especially a gifted singer, nor
does he have much in the way of palpable chemistry with co-star Naomi
on the other hand, fares a bit better for not only being luminously
photogenic, but also a decent vocal talent as well (Jasmine is also
granted a new song in the film titled "Speechless" that attempts
to rework this princess into a figure of female empowerment, which is a
nice touch, but really isn't embellished much elsewhere).
The real issue, though, between herself and Massoud is that they
simply don't make a pair of authentic lovers-to-be.
Even worse is the hopeless miscasting of Kenzari as Jafar, who
never once comes off as legitimately terrifying villain and is frankly to
understated in his performance to leave any mark.
of the main reasons for embarking on any remake of a film is to not only
pay homage to what came before, but to also provide some fresh new takes
on the material that will appease old fans and allure new ones in as well.
But, dear Lord, ALADDIN plays things so achingly safe when it comes
to appropriating the '92 film beat for beat and rarely ever takes any
chances with the material.
ALADDIN feels like a photocopy of an image versus an innovatively
revitalizing interpretation of said image, which leads to an overall
sensation of creative lethargy and flatness to the whole production.
The film employs a decent marriage of live action of sometimes
good, sometimes not so good CGI to recreate the animated film of
yesteryear, but all throughout watching it I felt like I was constantly
asking myself whether there was really anything in the original ALADDIN
that required improvement upon with a massive $200 million budget with
actual actors and actual locations?
The visual dynamism and unending charm of the animation of old
gives the film its sense of timeless vitality; there's so very little here
that inspires similar vibes.
ALADDIN also clocks in at over two hours, which also feels prohibitively wasteful (the original was a smooth sailing and brisk 38 minutes shorter, and the needless bloat here really shows). It's bizarre how Ritchie and company essentially tell the same basic story of what came before - including the same song numbers - and pad the length here to watch checking levels. But a semi-endurance testing running time is not the fundamental and unforgivable issue here. The film's biggest sin is that Disney is just dryly preying upon fan's nostalgia for the original and, in realizing that they already have a built-in audience for their animated properties, are going back to well to serve up families discarded leftovers instead of offering up new cuisines. I use this food analogy a lot when describing these live action remakes, but it perfectly embellishes what's wrong with them. There's ample money and star power on screen in this new ALADDIN, and it's a technically proficient remake, but there's an alarming lack of tangible magic and wit here as well, something that not even the genie himself could bestow upon this redundant enterprise.