I grew up in a glorious time in respect to Disney, during the time of the classics like ‘The Lion King’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, and ‘Beauty & The Beast’. I still remember taping over VHS tapes anytime one of the Disney classics came on, and none was more of my ‘jam’ (pun intended) than ‘Aladdin’. From the beautiful animation, the story, and of course the great Robin Williams as Genie, It was a huge influence in my childhood.
Disney has been working to recapture the magic from these properties again and modernize them for a new generation of kids, some or their attempts being major hits and some just not hitting the mark (you need only look back a couple months to the Tim Burton Remake of ‘Dumbo’ for the latter). ‘Aladdin’ for me felt very much to be going in the direction of being a mess, mainly from the marketing and the jarring Blue Will Smith, that while I get them wanting to show him in the trailers, really did him no favors in the long run, because not only is ‘Aladdin’ on of Disney’s best attempts at a live-action remake, but Will Smith brings his Genie into his own and sets himself apart from Robin Williams in smart and creative ways.
What I loved right off the bat with this film is the world it’s set in and how immersive it is. The trailers kind of made the set designs and locations out to appear somewhat “Cheap” but I would suggest that it’s due to director Guy Ritchies choice to play the first two acts almost like a live Broadway show. The music, the acting, the atmosphere is all very vibrant and infectious and I loved being immersed in the film.
Aladdin and Jasmine, played by Mena Massoud & Naomi Scott had great chemistry. I loved both of their performances and they both were able to sell the singing, dancing, all of it very well. Jasmines maid, played by SNL’s Nasim Pedrad was terrific comedic releif, as well as a very brief but hilarious scene with ‘Game Nights’ Billy Magnussen. They decided on the animal characters like Abu and Raja to be completely CGI, which in the case of using a live tiger compares to CGI… I would have done the same however, with Abu sometimes it was really clear that Mena Massoud wasn’t interacting with anything, when they could have maybe have had a mix of practical and CGI to give Aladdin and Abu a more tangible relationship.
Will Smith as the Genie was the absolute star of the show. Much like the Late Robin Williams, Will Smith made the perfect choice to play this character as Will Smith, and not an interpretation of Robin Williams performance. You would think from the trailers that Smiths Genie wouldn’t work but with how much charisma and fun Smith puts into this role he really makes it his own. Of course, nobody can replace Williams and for me he will always be my Genie, but if anyone leaves the theater with an issue, it won’t be with Will Smith.
To me the story wavered a bit when they added or deviated from the original sourcematerial. Particularly, hot Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari. Why they decided to take away some of the more sinister and creepy parts of this character I don’t really understand. They chose to take Jafar away from the more magical parts of his character and focus on him being more a behind the curtains political figure. Only until the 3rd act does the movie remember that Jafar needs to be a powerful sorcerer but to me, the 3rd act ended up being a little underwhelming because I never really felt like Aladdin or Jasmine were in danger with him.
Also the film adds a new song for Jasmines character that to me really felt out of place. Maybe it was where the reprise was placed but the lyrics to me were just not in tone with any of the other Aladdin songs, and ripped me out of the movie.
Overall though, ‘Aladdin’ is a genuine delightful surprise. I had a blast with the musical numbers, the dancing, it all worked so well, definitely go and check this one out in theaters!
Aladdin gets a 8/10