‘Aladdin (2019)’ // Film Review: Live-Action Disney Remake Lacks True Magic

Live-action Disney remakes seem to divide a lot of people out there. One side thinks they’re pointless cash grabs for the studio to lean on nostalgia, while the other side thinks it’s a way to introduce young children to beloved classics with a new spin. For me, I do enjoy these adaptations when they’re done properly (The Jungle Book, Cinderella). With Aladdin being one of the few to be released in 2019, there’s no telling how this will turn out.

What’s the Story: A young street rat named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) lives in the kingdom of Agrabah with his pet monkey, Abu, and instantly falls to Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott, Power Rangers). After he’s kidnapped by Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) to retrieve a magical lamp from the “Cave of Wonders”, he summons the Genie (Will Smith) from the lamp and has the power to grant any wish that comes to mind.

Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019)

First off, who doesn’t love the original 1992 classic? It’s probably my second favorite Disney movie of all-time with its beautiful animation, memorable songs, and a great lesson many would understand. But I wasn’t too hopeful hearing that this was getting the live-action treatment, especially with director Guy Richie still attached after King Arthur: Legend of the Sword deservedly bombed. Not only that, the marketing has done a poor job when the trailers made me feel nothing while the nervousness was flowing through my mind. And to be honest, this was one of the few Disney movies from this year that I wasn’t remotely anticipating. Went into this with an open mind, but it turns out Aladdin wasn’t a complete disaster, but I’m also saying it wasn’t that good either.

Starting off on the positive side, let’s talk about Smith’s performance. He was the least of my worries about this remake, but he was dealt with a difficult task by taking on a different Genie rather than being too similar to what the late, great Robin Williams brought to the original. That was an iconic role that’s always been linked to the comedian. In a surprising twist, he turned out to be a charming version of the Genie that worked well. He truly made the character his own, and that’s all that I wanted from his performance. Is he basically playing himself? Yeah, but you can’t fault Smith on that. Though the CGI when he’s blue doesn’t work fully, he was enough to make of his scenes work and energetic whenever he appears. Plus, he’s the one that had me laughing due to his charisma.

Will Smith and Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019)

Scott is the other standout in the movie with her performance as Princess Jasmine. What I came to appreciate about Jasmine in here is that she’s has more depth given towards herself.┬áMassoud, on the other hand, not so much.┬áMassoud might be a good dude in person, but I wasn’t buying his performance as Aladdin. He may look the part, but there wasn’t a moment where his performance was that convincing. He was fine by the end of it. Both of them had some decent chemistry between them. While the sparks weren’t all the way there, it’s able to be believable enough.

How were the musical numbers and songs handled in here? They were serviceable enough. My gripe with them is that they weren’t exactly magical to be invested in what’s going on. Favorites like “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are given a new spin with the help of Smith’s hip-hop flair, and “A Whole New World”, my absolute favorite song from the animation, sound fine and the scene with Aladdin and Jasmine on the magic carpet didn’t make me mad, thankfully. There was also a brand new song Jasmine sings called “Speechless”, and it’s not too bad. Also, I really enjoyed Alan Menken’s new score as it was a good mixture of the original, which he also composed.

When it’s trying to re-tell a story that we all know and love, it does a fairly good job at trying to stay true to the original while the script, written by Richie and John August, adds some changes to stretch out a 90-minute movie into two hours. For instance, there’s a new character Nasim Pedrad plays as Daliah, Jasmine’s handmaiden. Though it doesn’t help when the first ten minutes felt rushed. It’s been a while since I watched the original, but you can feel it becoming long, which results in it to be a bit boring before the climax.

Now we are going into the issues that Aladdin suffers from, and quite possibly the main problem is Kenzari’s Jafar. How could they make one of the best Disney villains into this bland, un-threatening sorcerer hot guy? At no point did I ever cared about Jafar’s plan to rule over the kingdom when I couldn’t make him seriously. There was even a moment where I unintentionally laughed because of how terrible he was. The CGI didn’t look that spectacular during any of the action sequences when it’s pretty noticeable. But worst of all about why Aladdin wasn’t there, is that it lacked any amount of fun.

Will Smith and Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019)

I never thought Richie was the right guy to direct this when it sounded like a strange choice in the first place. He’s well known for doing action movies with his signature style that makes it feel gritty. Luckily, that wasn’t found anywhere in Aladdin. But his direction never came across as being alive more or less hollow. Kind of shows why I’ve never been a fan of him as a director.

So, Aladdin is very mixed inside my head after it was over. I wanted this to be a good remake that proved me wrong due to the bad trailers, but it just made me wonder why Disney thought this was a good idea to push this forward with the live-action treatment. Kind of saw this coming two years ago when they first announced this. I mean, if you didn’t care for the Beauty and the Beast remake, this will change your mind about that very quickly. Will I watch it again? Not really. Just watch the original movie. But it does make me want to see the Broadway show since I’ve been hearing that’s more entertaining.

Please don’t let me and everyone else down, Lion King remake.

Grade: C

 

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