Joining an increasingly long list, Aladdin becomes Disney’s latest classic animated movie to be adapted into a live-action film. The movie, which comes out this Friday, is directed by Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) and stars Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Will Smith.
Aladdin is a hustler in the fictional city of Agrabah. He lives to steal and steals to live and he does so with a smile on his face and his pet monkey, Abu, on his back. He meets princess Jasmine and the two have an instant connection. Unfortunately, Jasmine cannot marry someone who is not a prince. Aladdin finds his solution in the form of a Genie who can grant him three wishes. At the same time, Jafar, an advisor to the Sultan of Agrabah, is also looking to cash in on those wishes so that he can gain power. The movie, much like the 1992 original, is intercut with music and dance numbers and references that don’t make a lot of sense, given its 15th century setting. Even so, this remake proves to be fun enough to make for an enjoyable time at the movies.
Aladdin has lived his life taking what he wants without considering the consequences. Watching Aladdin run through the streets of Agrabah and perfecting his sleight of hand is a joy to watch. This only continues after he meets the Genie and comes up with a plan to marry Princess Jasmine. Despite his inability to see the faults of his idea, we come to love Aladdin, just as Jasmine does. This is, in large part, due to Massoud’s portrayal of Aladdin. Massoud fills the role with the same boy-ish charm that the character from the original has in spades. Sadly, the focus on Aladdin comes at the expense of Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott. Despite being integral to the message, Jasmine could have been given more as a character.
Massoud fills the role with the same boy-ish charm that the character from the original has in spades.
Jasmine is the most kindhearted person in the film, wanting more for the people of Agrabah. Just as she was in 1992, Princess Jasmine is unfairly sidelined for a lot of the movie. There are glimmers of something different in this updated version, however. A new, empowering solo musical number is a start in fully realizing the character. As is her desire to become the Sultan, herself. It is not enough to make her feel like her own character with agency, rather than Aladdin’s love interest, though.
That lack of agency is a key point to Jasmine’s story arc but the story plays into that fact, just as it criticizes it. Allowing Jasmine and her friend, Dalia, to exist in scenes without talking about Aladdin or other princes might have helped. I wish the movie would have focused on the part of her that wanted to help Agrabah more than just her relation to the title character. In contrast, Will Smith’s Genie works surprisingly well.
Will Smith is given the opportunity that his career has so desperately needed the last couple of years: he gets to be Will Smith.
When it was announced that there would be a live action Aladdin, I was nervous. Even though Will Smith is one of the few people working in Hollywood who can garner even half the energy that Robin Williams could, he had a big lamp to fill. Williams’ voice performance as the Genie was so beloved that he received a special Golden Globe for it. Fortunately, Will Smith is given the opportunity that his career has so desperately needed the last couple of years: he gets to be Will Smith. His fast-talking, dynamic style of delivery allows him to showcase the charisma that once made him Hollywood’s biggest star. Furthermore, Smith brings a unique kind of flair to the Genie’s musical numbers. Although the success of this flair is up for debate, it is a welcome breath of fresh air. It is that sort of energy that ultimately makes Aladdin worthwhile.
From its over-the-top musical numbers to the exaggerated overacting from its stars, Aladdin is campy. While some people might read that and think of it as a complaint, it is a sincere compliment. A lot of the live-action Disney remakes take away some of the fun that can only be found in animation. The imagination that is on display in animation is second to none. Anything and everything is possible, which is why it is so appealing to both children and adults. It is impossible to make an animated movie into live-action without losing some of what makes it what it is. Despite that, Aladdin tries to keep the excitement and unpredictability that can be found in the original.
… there is one glaring difference between this film and the original and that is its runtime.
With a musical score written by the original composer and visual effects that are reminiscent of those from the animated film, though not as polished, Aladdin maintains a similar feeling even if it doesn’t quite capture the same magic. However, there is one glaring difference between this film and the original and that is its runtime. The 1992 film tells the same story in the span of a tight 90 minute runtime, while this version adds on about 40 extra minutes. At first, this wasn’t an issue but when it hit its third act, the fatigue really began to set in. This ultimately caused attention to be lost, which is never a good sign.
In the end, this is a remake. Aladdin tells a story that has already been told before and has been told better. Even so, despite its robust runtime and spotty CGI, this live-action version remembers its roots and is ultimately better off because of it. The actors keep a lot of the same qualities that work so well in the original. Massoud keeps the immature charm that makes Aladdin so lovable. While Scott has a beautiful singing voice and, as Jasmine, shows a genuine desire to do good for her city. Smith rounds out the cast and keeps the story fun and upbeat from the moment he shows up. I cannot say that Aladdin is perfect nor can I say that it is better than its animated predecessor. I can, however, say that it is good, campy fun and worth a watch.
In the meantime, if you need to be reminded why the original Aladdin is so good, Sarah Scoop is happy to remind you.