Film Review: Aladdin (2019)

Disney’s Aladdin is one of my all time favourite movies, I remember seeing it as a kid and loving it, and my affection just grew for it over the years. A huge part of this is the superb performance by the late Robin Williams as Genie, one of my favourite Disney characters. Genie was like nothing I’d seen before, this manic ball of energy who could change shape and voice to inhabit a wealth of characters. It was a chaotic, constantly moving whirlwind of fun that was the film’s stand out. The movie is great, and has lots going for it, but it’s Genie that I, and probably many others, remember the most and have the greatest affection for.

aladdin genie
Williams as Genie, he definitely earns some applause

When the remake was announced all the rest of the cast didn’t matter. The big question was who was going to step into Williams’ shoes and whether they could match his anarchic, improvisational turn.

Will Smith was a surprising choice, how would he do?

The answer is that it’s a mixed bag. The script here has made several changes to the original, and one of the areas is that they’ve made the Genie more of a Will Smith type character, and his charisma and comedic ability carries it off well. The problem, however, is when the film swings back towards the familiar songs, lines and moments. Anything that gets too close to the Williams version just reminds you of how great Williams was. So, Smith gets a raw deal. He’s strong but because this is a remake they can’t just cut all of those callbacks.

aladdin 2019

For the most part, the film in general works. The characters of Jasmine and Jafar (Naomi Scott and Marwan Kenzari) are beefed up a bit, and this works in it’s favour. We get more background for Jafar’s scheming nature and how he acquired his sorcery skills, and his motivation seems clearer. Similarly, Jasmine, who I liked in the animated version is given a bit more space to breathe. She was always strong willed and independent, but it’s expressed better here and her big song “Speechless” is one of the best moments of the film.

Scott is charming and likeable in the role, and shares an easy chemistry with Mena Massoud’s Aladdin, although I kinda felt that the hero gets a raw deal. There’s one part of the story where he has a change of heart and it just feels like there’s a missing scene somewhere. There’s no epiphany moment to explain why he changes his mind, and it jarred slightly.

Similarly, while Guy Ritchie does a good job, the “One Jump Ahead” sequence feels stilted and flat, which is a shame as this is our introduction to our hero. But it’s one only a few stumbles along the way, and for the most part Ritchie does a good job, particularly with the humour and the Genie is done in inventive ways with some nice sight gags and flourishes.

It’s a decent movie but it slips into the middle of Disney’s remake pack- a damn sight better than Maleficent and with more substance than Cinderella, but it lacks the charm and warmth of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.

It made me laugh a lot, and the songs are translated fairly well (“A Whole New World” the best), but as good as the cast are it never matches the original, or adds enough to really stand on it’s own too feet.

Good, but not great.

7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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