A thrilling and vibrant live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic, Aladdin is the exciting tale of the charming street rat Aladdin, the courageous and self-determined Princess Jasmine and the Genie who may be the key to their future.
People of a certain age – don’t call us old – will have fond memories of our first trip to Agrabah. For me Aladdin is my favourite of the classic Disney movies. An animated gem which was obviously going to get the live-action treatment but nevertheless I hoped it wouldn’t.
Flash forward a few years and I find myself sat in the cinema (near Graham Norton no less!) watching the live-action Aladdin unfold before me on screen.
Going I had very mixed emotions about seeing this movie brought to life. I, like many, had my reservations about Will Smith taking over the role of Genie from Robin Williams. I did however take some comfort in seeing Power Rangers Naomi Scott cast as Princess Jasmine.
Much of my trepidation came from the knowledge that Aladdin would be directed by Guy Ritchie. You know, he of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame. There was definitely a level of intrigue to see a director famed for his gangster movies attempt to make what is arguably a children’s movie.
But alas Aladdin is neither the disaster many will paint it out to be, or the success that Disney hopes that it will be. Instead the movie is a frustrating mix of well choreographed dance sequences, brightly coloured sets and flashy effects counterbalanced by a heavily undercooked villain and some flat musical performances.
Let’s start with Will Smith. He’s been the talking point of this movie ever since the announcement of his casting. I enjoyed seeing him update the Genie and play to his strengths. I was worried we would see Smith emulating Robin Williams and thankfully that never came to pass.
He presents familiar dialogue in a much more Will Smith manner (obviously) and is able to toe the line between an homage and something entirely unique. I really appreciated the little flashes of classic Smith humour here and there intermixed with the laughs we would expect from the Genie character.
Whilst in his blue form the CGI was, at times, a little off. It has that usual fluid look about it that I’m always complaining about. It’s the movement of the lips that betrays the overall character. It’s ever so slightly off-kilter and distracting.
Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott are an excellent Aladdin and Jasmine. Individually both are strong performers, they bring some excellent vocals and dance moves to the musical sequences. Likewise Massoud has a lot of charm which really helps him realise both Aladdin and the conflicted Prince Ali.
Scott portrays as Princess Jasmine for a new generation. Hers is the most updated character in the cast. The new Disney ethos of representing strong women through its princesses is at its best in this movie. She certainly has much more realistic aspirations that her animated counterpart, she’s much less the victim and much more the co-hero in this story.
Jasmine also performs the only new song added to the movie. “Speechless” is a pop-rock sing in the vein of “Let It Go” from Frozen. At times the two sound very similar in fact. As great as the song is the moment it’s performed in full in the movie is a little confusing. Does Jasmine have super powers? Is she totally Thanos’ing Jafar and his men? No she’s just imaging being the hero she wants to be.
My only complaint here is the style of the song is at odds with almost every other musical number in the movie.
Supporting cast member are all well suited to their roles. Nasim Pedrad (New Girl) easily steals every scene she’s in throughout the movie. She’s absolutely hilarious and I looked forward to every line of dialogue from her.
The low point in the movies cast of characters is sadly Jafar. The great pantomime villain of the cartoon is watered down to a near cameo here. I can barely remember his scenes. Marwan Kenzari plays the character well, there’s a despicable evil laugh which is able to break out in one scene towards the movies climax but overall Jafar becomes absolutely lost in the crowd.
It’s sure to be the musical numbers which will bring in the audiences. Numbers like “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” feature excellent choreography which comes close to matching that of the cartoon. Others like “One Just Ahead” show off some more of the acrobatic moves from the cast but the vocals and musicality falls very flat.
There were moments in Aladdin where I wanted to dive in to the screen and shake some life into the cast. There’s no obvious cause either; it’s not shockingly bad writing, it’s no particularly bad acting, there’s just a spark which is missing for much of the movie.
That being said I still felt utterly Disney-fied by the time Aladdin and Jasmine get married so Aladdin certainly did its job somehow…
The live-action remake of Aladdin is perhaps not quite as magical as the animated original. Spirited performances from the three leads keeps the film entertaining but ultimately it will leave viewers feeling cold.
Aladdin arrives in cinemas May 23, 2019. The film stars Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban and Nasim Pedrad.