Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Megahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen
Written by: John August and Guy Ritchie
Running Time: 128 mins
Release date: 22nd May 2019
Hot on the tailcoats of Tim Burton’s re-imagination of Disney’s Dumbo, now comes another animated movie that has been remade into live action. The 1992 feature Aladdin was made hugely popular by the vocal talents of Robin Williams as the Genie, a wild and crazy creation that pushed not only the animators art but proved once and for all just what a comedy genius Williams really was. Will this reimagination work, or will it be another step too far from the House of Mouse?
Aladdin is a kind-hearted street thief who falls for the charms of a stranger in his town, who just turns out to be Princess Jasmine, the daughter of the Sultan and a young woman who desperately wants the job but due to tradition, will have to marry a prince. The Sultan’s right-hand man, Jafar, want the position too but will only get there if he possesses a magic lamp in a cave that can only be entered by a diamond in the rough. Aladdin fits the bill, but he discovers the lamp contains a Genie who offers him three wishes.
It’s tough to watch this film without comparing it to the 1992 movie, yet with a few tweaks and giving Jasmine more of a character, this is an almost carbon copy. Directed by Guy Ritchie (yes, THAT Guy Ritchie) this is a marked improvement to both Dumbo and Ritchie’s previous film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (but that may be faint praise). He throws everything at the screen, bringing colour and vibrancy. The chase scenes through the streets are exciting and well executed.
However, the dance routines, brimming with energy, are speeded up, as if the choreography was far too slow for the music. Ritchie is known for his innovative use of cinema, usually slow motion is his trick of choice. Yet this just makes the bigger numbers look weird and just doesn’t work.
The performances from a relatively unknown cast are well suited. Mena Massoud as Aladdin has a cheeky grin and full of exuberance that makes him a likeable lead. He has an assured quality about him that makes for a bright and breezy character. Naomi Scott is perfect for the new Jasmine, a modern take on the Princess role that allows her to be tough and a woman with a mind of her own, longing to break the traditions. The new song, Speechless, fits in well with the rest of the familiar songs and she sings it beautifully.
Stepping in the enormous shoes of Robin Williams is Will Smith. The Fresh Prince isn’t the obvious choice for the role of the Genie, but he does an admirable job. He is wise-cracking while bringing a level of humanity to the part. Yet it lacks the spontaneousness and wild imagination of Williams. Sadly, while the rest of the film fits fine, this is where it suffers the worst problems. When the original was made, it was constructed around Williams’s improvisational styling. Smith tries something different, and yet Ritchie wants something similar, which ends up with you wondering why they would attempt to remake this.
Aladdin isn’t a total failure and has more going for it than Dumbo. It entertains and while watching it, it does the job of putting a smile on your face. However, you do wonder when this is all going to end, and with The Lion King still on the horizon and others in the pipeline, Disney’s remake machine isn’t stopping anytime soon. This manages to just about work but will the others and how much are they tainting the memory of the original films?