Aladdin is the latest film in the craze of Disney live action remakes, preceded by this winter’s Dumbo and followed by this summer’s The Lion King, and is directed by Guy Ritchie. It is a remake of the 1992 film of the same name and stars the talents of Will Smith as Genie, Mena Massoud as the titular character Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari as the villainous Jafar. In the long line of Disney remakes, and there are many, this one truly does stand out.
You ain’t never seen a remake like this.
Let’s start with one of the films strongest attributes, the acting. We will begin with Aladdin himself. Many were afraid the acting would be subpar, specifically after the trailers showed us very little of him speaking. Well I can gladly tell you to rest easy, as Massoud is a wonderful Aladdin who practically oozes charisma. His initial musical number, “One Jump Ahead”, will instantly have you on his side. He’s got a million dollar smile and you’ll be cheering for him the whole time.
Now onto Naomi Scott’s version of Jasmine. I found her portrayal very, very strong. She approaches the character from a different angle than the animation, something the script does as well, but I welcomed and loved the change. Her Jasmine is a strong woman who wants to control her own destiny and her new song, “Speechless”, will make you pump your fist in support.
The two of them together, her and Aladdin of course, have so much chemistry it’s sickening. I can’t remember the last time I was so invested in an onscreen romance. When they eventually belt out the classic, “A Whole New World”, you’ll be singing together with them. Nailing the relationship between the two of them was an absolute must for this film, and I am glad to report that they accomplished that in spades.
Furthering on, I found Marwan Kenzari as Jafar to be serviceable. He wasn’t incredible per say, but he played the role well enough that he kept the plot going. You believed him to be the evil sorcerer who wanted to take over Agrabah.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, my thoughts on Will Smith’s version of the Genie. Before I go fully into it, let me provide some context as to why this is such a hot topic to discuss. As we all know, Smith is stepping into some pretty big shoes as Robin Williams absolutely killed the character of Genie in the classic 1992 film. This was enough pressure as is, but back in February we got our first look of the new iteration of Genie, and the internet exploded. People were insanely critical over the look of the character, with many making memes and hilarious jokes out of the new character’s design. Well, after seeing the movie, I can say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Yes, the CGI for the character can be a little wonky (we’ll get into that later), but his performance is nothing short of spectacular. He is hilarious, charming, heartfelt, and strong. He’s not doing a Williams impression whatsoever, no, he makes the character his with his own interpretation and I’d be lying to you if I said he didn’t kill it. All the classic Genie musical numbers are wonderful here as well, with, “Friend Like Me,” taking the cake for his best. Smith’s Genie is possibly the best part of the film, but it’s closely tied with Massoud’s performance as Aladdin. Will Smith did the impossible. He took a classic character and made it his own, while paying respects to Robin Williams’ genius portrayal from the 90’s. Take a bow Mr. Smith, take a bow.
Onto the directing and story, I found Ritchie’s directing to be quite strong here as well. It’s not perfect, as the pacing can be a little off at times, but he did a great job of directing the actors and keeping the story clear. He never lost sight of the vitals of this story. His visuals were mostly wonderful and I thought his version of Agrabah looked incredible.
The script for this film is pretty strong and I liked a lot of the departures it took from the original film. My biggest gripe with 2017’s Beauty and the Beast was that it was way too similar to the animated classic to justify it getting made, but this film has enough differences to justify its existence. I won’t get into the differences as this is a non-spoiler version, but I did enjoy all of them.
Sadly, this film isn’t flawless as I alluded to earlier. Some of the visual effects are very strange and approach the uncanny valley, specifically with the Genie. You get used to it after a little while, but there are definitely shots where something looks off with his character. I also found the pacing to be inconsistent, specifically in the very beginning of the film. It starts out going 100 miles an hour and practically sprinting through the story, but it does slow down and from then on out I was loving it.
Aladdin isn’t perfect, no film is, but I had a huge smile on my face the whole runtime. The music is delightful, the acting is impeccable, and the visuals are mostly great. What else can you ask for?
Have you seen Aladdin? What did you think?
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