It was only a matter of time before Disney would turn Aladdin—a classic animated movie for many—into a live action film. The House of Mouse gave the “real-life people” treatment to the likes of Beauty and Beast and The Jungle Book with some level of success that warranted more down the line. With the live action version of The Lion King around the corner, Little Mermaid in the works, and Mulan in production, Aladdin seemed like a no-brainer despite fans of the original feverishly voicing their hate for the idea. I’ll be the first to admit that I had very little hope for this movie because of my love for the original and Robin Williams’ superb acting as Genie.
Yet, I will have to say that the trailers did not do this version of Aladdin justice as the film is a solid Disney live-action adaption of a well-beloved story that deserves your dollar at the box office.
The story is still the same as you remember as a child, ready to be amazed once your parent, guardian, or babysitter hit “play” on the VHS tape player. The street rat meets the princess of Agrabah, an evil sorcerer wants to take over the land from the sultan, and a genie is a key to all their wishes.
Guy Ritchie has always been known to direct films with a real frenetic style that can be positive and negative. This time around he decides to put that aside and allow the movie to play out in a style that’s akin to a Disneyland ride. When the film introduces the land of Agrabah, it’s skillfully done with Will Smith singing that classic Arabian Nights tune as a guide through the town streets. I got a real sense that this place was teaming with life and almost felt the need to become a resident so that I may witness the culture this world holds.
Although the rest of the film is an easy breeze through, it takes a minute for it to find it’s footing. After the first musical number of the movie, the pacing seems to trip over itself a few times when Aladdin and Princess Jasmin are introduced. It was almost like Ritchie started to hesitate on how to embrace the wild story that is about to unfold.
One of the key factors that would worry any fan of the original would be how the actors and actresses fit in their roles.
Be patient. I will address that later.
Mena Massoud as Aladdin is perfect in his part. The dude sells the shit out of the character from the start and even carries that signature smile from the cartoon. The actor’s history in the theatre was a perfect match for this movie because there were times where the movie came off as a stage production with beaucoup bucks thrown at it. When the scene called for him to be the focus, he did it effortlessly.
The same can be said about Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. The thing that I liked about the character is that the writing gave more for Jasmine to do than wait to be married or rescued. Also, that girl got a set of vocals on her. At one point in Aladdin, the spotlight is on her and she bellows out a song that gave me goosebumps.
Though the solo number seemed shoehorned in, it was still a good choice to allow Scott to show her talent as a singer. Those two are great in their roles but the one that drags his feet is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar.
I bet you were hoping that I would say Will Smith…stop it.
The character of Jafar from the animated film came off as a real threat in his snake-in-the-grass ways. This portrayal of the character is like a whiny weasel. It might’ve been the writing or just his acting alone but this version of Jafar could’ve used some retooling in order to justify his cause for war or decimate a neighboring land of allies.
The CGI and the practical effects of the movie do and don’t work at certain times during the film. There are points where Smith’s Genie looks authentic when next to the actors and in certain scenes but other times it seemed like more time should’ve been spent on the design. The ‘Never Had a Friend Like Me’ number was great to watch. I could tell that the CGI department spent much more time on this scene because this was to be the one and only chance to properly introduce the audience to the new Genie.
While that is all fine and dandy, the ending chase scene is problematic as hell. The camera goes from steady to shaky and the effects really start to lack in quality, almost to a laughable level. If it went on for any longer, I might have given up on the movie altogether.
I will say that the MVS (most valuable scene) is the big musical number for ‘Prince Ali’. The scene—with a combination of practical and CGI effects—caused me to gain a huge smile. It reminded me why I loved the original movie growing up and does that version justice. In all honesty, I wish I could’ve been there on set to see how Ritchie got this massive number to work so perfectly with all its moving parts.
Now, the part you’ve been waiting for—Will Smith. I’ll be honest with you. I was very hesitant to give this movie a try solely because of Robin William’s performance and how no one could replicate that same feel. Will Smith made the right move by not emulating Williams performance but instead made it his own. Smith’s acting and personality have always leaned more toward the real charming and charismatic side and this movie was a perfect fit for him.
I absolutely loved his version of the character and it came off as very natural for the actor. There were plenty of jokes with great comedic timing from Smith and he was able to land the moments of seriousness as well. Although, it’s weird that the writers decided to give his character a love story that was poorly executed and should’ve been given a second thought before the final cut.
Many fans—including myself—were expecting a disastrous version of Aladdin but I’m glad to say that this isn’t the case. Guy Ritchie’s directing and the cast try to sell the shit of his story based somewhat in reality and does a damn fine job. There are hiccups along the way, but I would give this movie another watch again. I am curious to see if Disney would take a swing at The Return of Jafar storyline, but this might just be a one and done deal.
P.S. When the credits start to roll, run. Will Smith took it upon himself to write a song for the film with Dj Khaled.