Guy Ritchie's live-action take on Aladdin isn't horrible, but it skirts on the question of necessity as the film mostly recreates the animated classic, with very little alterations or adjustments. It's well-acted and mostly harmless, but struggles balancing its own take with the established property.
2019 is slowly shaping up to be the year Disney revisits the well, attempting to recreate new magical moments out of age-old classics. They tried this earlier this year with Dumbo and to lesser success with previous years’ entries, but this year Disney takes on Aladdin, The Lion King and yet another Toy Story.
Aladdin has been considered one of their best animated classics, which makes Guy Ritchie‘s live-action adaptation something of an event film. Will Smith replaces Robin Williams‘ Genie, while Mena Massound and Naomi Scott breathe new life into the characters of Aladdin and Jasmine.
What I can say is that this version of Aladdin isn’t horrible. The chemistry between Massound and Scott isn’t perfect, but it’s convincing and enjoyable. Watching the two characters take familiar steps towards a known conclusion isn’t nearly as boring as one might think, but the film does struggle leaving its own stamp on the production.
Most were worried about Will Smith‘s take on Genie and I must say that it mostly works. Genie still feels like a character molded particularly for the late and great Robin Williams, but Smith gives the character credibility and worth as we watch Genie’s interactions with Aladdin and the rest of the cast. I didn’t laugh uncontrollably or step back in awe of Smith’s performance, but I didn’t mind what I was watching on-screen.
Most of this is because of the chemistry between the leads.
As I said earlier, Massound and Scott have chemistry, which makes the core relationship easier to digest as the film moves forward. Smith and Massound also seem to be on the same wavelengths as the film progresses.
Unfortunately, Marwan Kenzari‘s Jafar falls completely flat. While most of the film’s performances feel appropriate given the material and the target audience, Kenzari’s Jafar feels like a silly one-dimensional bad guy to that point that educated children might question his simplicity.
It’s also worth noting that Guy Ritchie‘s writing and directing talents go by mostly unnoticed. Nothing about this film feels like a Ritchie production. Instead, Aladdin looks like a very cheaply made production that never really feels lived in or authentic. It feels like it was all shot on a big sound stage, mixed with questionable CGI.
I’ll give credit to Jon Favreau for making The Jungle Book at least look and feel like something unique and special unfolding on the screen.
Aladdin definitely doesn’t have that same layer of detail and creation. It looks and feels like a cheap redo of the animated film, with not a whole lot of modernization or change — I get that it’s a classic, but shouldn’t the film have something to say that the original didn’t already cover?
I went into Aladdin expecting to hate it. I never cared for the original and I thought the trailers looked pretty bad, yet I walked out somewhat surprised with what I saw. On one hand, the film was entertaining and an easy way to kill a few hours, while on the other hand, I kept asking why the film even existed, aside from a quick paycheck.
Aladdin gets by on strong performances and not much of anything else. Disney’s inability to create new original stories worries me as we continue to see sequels and reboots that are afraid to dream, to think and to take chances.