Director: Guy Ritchie
Actors: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott
Award Corner: ☆☆☆☆☆ – A
First, let me point a small, tiny detail you may or may not know about me. I am a Disneyphile. A complete 100%, spreadsheet creating, Disney World addict. And Aladdin holds a very special place in my heart. Always has, always will. Robin Williams was THE man when it came to the Genie. So if anyone was predisposed to dislike this latest rendition it would be me. I once got mad at a Broadway play because the lines were not delivered the same way as in the movie Fiddler on the Roof. I have high standards, especially when they toy with my favorite movie of all time. So imagine my surprise to come out of the theater saying “that was surprisingly not awful…”.
But be warned. I can compartmentalize old and new and see them as two different movies. Can you? Because if you can’t, you won’t be singing its praises. But if you can keep an open mind and appreciate it for what it is, rather than what it has been, then I’m willing to bet that you will think it’s surprisingly not awful as well.
If, for some horrible reason, your childhood didn’t include the ever-lovable street rat, let me fill you in on the plot-line. Adorable scruffy street rat meets disguised princess and then promptly gets “arrested” by an evil royal vizier bent on taking over the kingdom. Adorable street rat finds magic lamp, a genie, and princely title so he can win the heart of the fair princess. True love and ‘“being” yourself save the day and the kingdom and the royal vizier learns the true meaning of itty-bitty living space. In that, Disney did not change much. All of the favorite sequences were there. Yes, some of them had a more modern flair, particularly when it came to the musical sequences, but considering they had to walk a fine line between preserving a classic without copying it, I think it was done alright. The pacing never dragged, the dialogue was still snappy, and overall, a decent attempt to make something new.
Time to address the giant blue elephant in the corner. No, wait. That’s Abu. (Just kidding, the monkey was never blue). Ladies and gentleman, I present Will Smith. Yes, he’s blue. Funny thing is, I never heard any complaints when it was Robin Williams personified as a jolly blue guy. I actually feel bad for Will Smith. He had the cards stacked against him from the very beginning. Can you imagine trying to step into someone shoes as iconic as Robin Williams? He tried his best to embody the Genie, knowing that every change would make fans scream in anger, and that every imitation would make the fans scream in anger. He was incredibly brave for taking on the role and I actually liked him in it. No, he’s not Robin Williams. He doesn’t try to be. But he’s got his own pizzaz, his own sense of humor, his own warmth that he brings to the role and honestly, he makes the movie. The scenes between him and Mena Massoud were filled with warmth and fun. I have personally never seen Mena Masssoud in anything, but he managed to hit his stride as the titular character. Like Smith, he made it his own, and I respect both of them for that. Ironically enough, I have seen Naomi Scott in something, but that something was Lemonade Mouth…so yeah. Jasmine was a good step up for her. Scott was as feisty as she needed to be to get the job done, never lost sight of her goal, and her chemistry with Massoud was clear. In other words, I had no issues with the casting. It was never going to be the original and all of the actors need major kudos for making it their own while still preserving the story.
The visuals of this movie are actually pretty cool. I always find it fascinating to see how they make an animated movie translate to a live-action. Sometimes it’s a miss, like The Jungle Book, and sometimes it’s a win, like Beauty and the Beast. I’d say Aladdin falls in the middle. The colors and costumes are very flashy, with great golden and jeweled tones. There weren’t very many sets. Agrabah was pretty limited, with the most being seen once at the beginning and once at the end. It gave the overall impression of a desert city with open air street markets. The dance sequences may have been “muted” from the cartoon, but it’s hard to come up with that much flash when there are real world limitations. But they made the best with what they had.
They didn’t screw up my favorite song! That alone has endeared them more than anything. The song “Prince Ali” is one of my favorites and they matched the grandeur perfectly. Yes, some of the lyrics have changed, some more than others. The opening story-building sequence was built around Robin Williams personality so it makes sense that this one was suited toward Will Smith’s. Yes, there’s more pop, less rap than you’d expect, but it fit with the overall theme of the movie. It was fresh and still stayed true to the original messages. The addition of one new song “Speechless” was not my favorite, as it felt thrown in there because Jasmine needed something to keep up with Aladdin and the Genie. However, to be honest it just musically reminded me of “Helpless” from the Hamilton soundtrack which didn’t fit the overall musical tone of the movie. That’s the only downside I’ve found to this movie.
Overall: Haters are going to hate. If you can’t get over the fact that Will Smith is sometimes blue and can’t look at this with the fresh eyes then don’t bother going. But it’s to your disadvantage. It’s evident they worked hard to create this and for the most part it largely works. It’s suitable for kids and adults alike. Seeing it theaters probably won’t make much of a big difference between that and waiting for the blu-ray, but it’s a fun time no matter how you see it.