Aladdin (2019) – Review

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad

The Overview
A kind-hearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
Even as my fingers type the title of yet another classic Disney animated film, now with a different year which follows it, I can start to feel the lethargy setting in. Regardless of whether people think they serve a purpose or not, the Box Office speaks for itself, and so the Disney live action train keeps on rolling.

The marketing for Aladdin lead me to believe that this film was going to be a steaming pile of garbage, and whilst admittedly it wasn’t that bad, I couldn’t help leaving with that same question I have had after viewing any of these re-imagined versions of beloved films from my childhood; “why?”

Why when a perfectly good version of a film exists would a studio keep insisting on remaking them? The ultra cynical part of me would just answer with one simple word – money – but yet the optimist in me will continue going to the cinema to see them, because once, just once, I would like to be surprised and proved wrong.

Out of all the Disney live action remakes, the only one that has really stood out for me has been Pete’s Dragon, and the success of that film was in part due to the fact that the original source was one of the lesser known Disney films, and certainly one of a lower quality. And perhaps it is as simple as that, remaking Pete’s Dragon served a purpose, and “purpose” is absolutely what has been lacking from the recent slew of Disney live action films.

Going into Aladdin expecting an absolute dumpster fire was probably the best approach, as I did find myself surprised by the fact that in places, the film is actually okay, and pretty entertaining. There are a couple of things that it does really well, and in particular the depiction of Princess Jasmine was handled really well. Naomi Scott plays a spirited and headstrong Jasmine, a woman who would much rather be Sultan than the wife of one, and who is perfectly capable of rescuing herself. She is absolutely the star of this show, and I’ll be honest, to have such a well-rounded female character be the shining light of a Guy Ritchie directed film, was a welcome surprise. In new character Dalia, Jasmine has someone to talk to that isn’t just a pet tiger, and Nasim Pedrad, who plays the Princess’ handmaiden, does a fantastic job of providing some much-needed relief and is really a breath of fresh air.

Having viewed a clip online of the “Prince Ali” sequence, I was expecting an absolute car crash, but admittedly, in the context of the film, the sequence works a lot better, and indeed the song-and-dance moments in the film are quite spectacular in places. There’s some great choreography, bright colours, and dynamic camerawork, and these end up being some of the strongest moments of the film.

There is however one big, blue problem with this film. Will Smith’s Genie just does not work, and despite Smith trying his absolute hardest, his voice does not suit the songs, and the character on the whole becomes really grating as the film progresses. Of course, stepping into the shoes of Robin Williams is a near impossible task and whilst there are some good moments, on the whole Smith’s version of the Genie ends up being one of the film’s weaker aspects. When the character is in his blue guise, the design just does not work and it is pretty distracting.

Overall, the problem with this film is that you’re just left with a feeling of emptiness once it is all over. You won’t have the worst time watching it, but at the end you’ll wonder “did I need to see that?”. The cartoon is already fantastic, I don’t need to see the same story all over again, and despite not being the total failure many anticipated, I still fail to see the point in this film, or indeed any of the subsequent Disney live action offerings. Aladdin is not terrible, it’s not great, it’s just sort of alright. “A Whole New World”? Same old world really…

The Verdict
★★★☆☆

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