TL;DR – It is a good, sometimes great film, but it does fall into some of the same traps as other Disney classic remakes of recent years.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is midish-credit dance number scene
I’m not sure if I have ever been so apprehensive walking into a film before. For me, the original Aladdin holds a special place in my heart and without a doubt, it is my favourite from the entirety of the Disney Renaissance. However, this more than any of the recent remakes have had a very rocky history with its promotion misfires on top of the simple worries of how does an Aladdin film without Robin Williams? Well, some of those fears were put aside in the first couple of minutes of the films, others not so much.
So to set the scene, we open in on Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who is walking through the streets of Agrabah with his monkey companion Apu (Frank Welker). He is an orphan, or street urchin, or as the guards call him a street rat. He lives by stealing from others and then surviving off the small returns. But this is not your every day, because someone new is in the markets, someone who clearly does not belong, Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) in disguise. One musical number later and all is right in the world, however, The Sultan’s (Navid Negahban) Grand Vizier (Marwan Kenzari) has other plans, for he is searching for the ‘diamond in the rough’ and his macaw Iago (Alan Tudyk) might have just found it.
the first thing you see when watching Aladdin is just how much work they have
done bringing this world to life. They have gone the full measure with
costumes, sets, locations to make the world of Agrabah feel like both a real
place, but also some sort of magical reality kind of world. Though it is
interesting that the religious aspect of this world is almost completely absent
save for one reference to a Minaret. It this attention to the details, the textures
of the world that draws you in and it is apparent from the very first moment
that a lot of money has gone into this film to make it look spectacular.
The next gem in the hat of the film is its cast who are all here and who are all giving everything in their performances. Mena Massoud is immediately captivating as Aladdin and has all the charm needed to be the diamond in the rough. Naomi Scott is just as good as Jasmine, showing the range needed to go toe to toe with the rest of the cast in some really tense scenes. Also, I spent the whole film trying to place where I knew her from only to be reminded that she was in Power Rangers, and more people should go watch Power Rangers because it was excellent. Of course, we have to talk about Marwan Kenzari who is being completely extra as Jafar and I am here for it.
it is time to talk about the big issue and that is Will Smith as Genie. If anything
has been the focal point for the displeasure of this film it has been the
stills of Will Smith in all he blue glory. Look, to be honest, no matter what
they did there is no way they could capture the magic that was Robin Williams’
performance, now while there are arguments to be had whether they should have
at all, putting that aside I think on the whole it was fine. I honestly really
liked his performance once I got used to it and the direction he was going in.
More of a slightly off hinged mentor figure and some of his dialogue with
Aladdin is simply hilarious.
When it comes to the story, it has most of the key features of the animated film. They do speed up the start quite a bit with Jasmine and Aladdin meeting in the first minute or two of the film and getting to that opening musical number really quick. This was likely a good choice because most people are already familiar with the story, so you don’t have to spend as much with the setup and then just reinforce it throughout the film. Getting into the story quicker also means we get to see a good idea of where Guy Richie is going stylistically with the film and while it is quite interesting, the speed up footage plays like they are singing in real time is an odd choice and does date the film quite a bit. However, it falls into the same trap as a lot of the Disney remakes, and a lot of recent animated films, where there is a lot of drag in that final act. The pinnacle of which is an action scene that feels so forced in its placement that it almost felt like it was in a Tintin film.
of the elements of the first film that cemented it in people hearts was the
songs, with their fanatic energy almost endless singing potential. You just
need to say “A whole new world” or “Friend like me” and well I know you
already have those songs playing in your head. In the updated film the vast
majority of songs are the classic versions with maybe a little updating here
and there to more fit the style of the different performers. There are some new
songs, but unfortunately, they don’t land nearly as well. I think part of this
is their placement, towards the end when the film is already starting to drag a
little and they slow things down even more. However, tonally they don’t seem to
fit because they are working to a much more modern style of song construction
and it jars a bit with the more classical Broadway style of the first film. All
of this is a shame as most of the new songs are all about giving Jasmine a bit more
agency in her story which is needed, but this didn’t quite work.
In the end, do we recommend Aladdin? Honestly, yes, yes we would. Coming into it, I was not sure about the film, and they sure were not doing a very good job promoting it at all. However, once you see everything in motion and the songs kick in it all falls into place. And hey, if it does not do it for you we still have the gem that was the original film.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Aladdin
Directed by – Guy Ritchie
Screenplay by – John August & Guy Ritchie
Based on – Aladdin by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from One Thousand and One Nights.
Music/Lyrics by – Alan Menken, Howard Ashman & Tim Rice with Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Cinematography by – Alan Stewart
Edited by – James Herbert
Production/Distribution Companies –Walt Disney Pictures, Rideback & Marc Platt Productions
Starring – Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, Robby Haynes, Alan Tudyk & Frank Welker.
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: PG; United States: PG