The latest trend from Disney in recent years has been to adapt their collection of animated classics into modern live-action films. Their first two endeavors, “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast,” were both critical and box-office successes prompting Disney to double down on this new path and schedule several more adaptations. However, the announcement of a live-action “Aladdin” was met with a great deal of skepticism. This was only heightened with the first trailer that made many concerned about the appearance of a CGI Genie. The fear that “Aladdin” would tarnish the original was multiplied when Disney released “Dumbo” this last March to critical and box-office disappointment.
As advertised, Disney’s “Aladdin” follows the same plot as the original animated classic. A charming street rat discovers a mystical oil lamp inside the Cave of Wonders. He unleashes an all-powerful genie that helps him win the heart of the princess he loves. Meanwhile, the sultan’s evil vizier Jafar, desires the lamp for himself to gain unlimited power. As an adaptation of the original, “Aladdin” succeeds in adapting the beloved classic while also adding some new material to keep the film interesting. Characters like Jafar and the Sultan are tweaked in order to make them more interesting and complex. Jasmine and Genie are given more time to be fleshed out, and a new song is added for good measure.
The opening of the film is quite jarring as we are quickly introduced to our protagonists and then suddenly thrown into our first action scene and song. The entire sequence is rushed and oddly edited as the camera work feels as if it was sped up for the song “One Jump.” The entire scene happens so fast and with little set up that the audience is hardly able to catch its breath. It felt like the filmmakers assumed that the viewers would all be familiar with the story and characters and decided to just get the movie going. After this rushed opening and once the Genie is introduced, the movie catches its footing and takes off. The beloved musical numbers from the original are all here and performed beautifully, as well as one welcomed addition performed by Jasmine. Additionally, the chemistry between the three leads is well integrated and they each shine in there respective roles. The humor works and the entire adventure is a fun experience to watch on screen. Sadly, the finale with Jafar is underwhelming as it surprisingly does not capture the cinematic and dramatic feel of the original’s ending despite the film being a big-budget live-action remake. Furthermore, the final confrontation feels rushed and the resolution at the end, though touching, is wrapped up quickly.
2019’s “Aladdin” excels when it came to the casting of its three main stars. The relative newcomer, Mena Massoud, who plays the titular Aladdin manages to carry the film as the lovable and charming street rat. Naomi Scott who takes on the role of Jasmine also impresses as she delivers a more fleshed out performance as the princess. We see more of her life inside the palace and are shown that she is willing and capable to help her people despite not being allowed to because of her gender. Most importantly however, Will Smith manages to carry the film as the Genie and does so without trying to copy the masterful work of his predecessor, Robin Williams. Though both actors played the same role in their respective films, Will Smith’s Genie is a fresh representation of the character. William’s performance relied on his amazing impressions and non-stop references. Smith instead makes the role his own and relies on his innate charm and charisma that works beautifully with every member of the cast, especially Massoud’s Aladdin. Despite early fears, the Genie’s effects made the film feel magical and cinematic despite a few moments where it appeared jarring. The supporting cast also manage to deliver entertaining, albeit forgettable performances; but the biggest let down was the villain, Jafar. To the filmmaker’s credit, they managed to give Jafar a decent backstory as a beggar who craved power and took it, but the villain never managed to stand out. The original animation’s Jafar was captivating and menacing, but Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar never managed to stand out in the film despite the added layer of complexity.
Overall, Disney’s latest live-action remake “Aladdin” is a fun and endearing take on the beloved classic. Director Guy Ritchie manages to create a faithful and eye-catching adaptation of the original for new audiences to love. The main cast each deliver on their performances and Will Smith’s Genie steals the show as he provides some of the best laughs and best musical performances. Fans of the original songs will be happy to see their faithful inclusion in this film as well as a welcomed addition in Jasmine’s “Speechless.” For those skeptical of Disney’s desire to remake animated classics, 2019’s “Aladdin” by no means surpasses the original, but is still great on its own and manages to justify its existence due to its quality.
Verdict: Disney’s latest live-action remake, “Aladdin,” is a welcomed take on the animated original. Despite a poor start, underwhelming ending and a lackluster villain, the film is an entertaining adventure in Agrabah with spectacular performances from its leading stars, especially Will Smith’s Genie.