This reviewed was originally published for Vents Magazine. Link HERE.
Aladdin is the latest Disney classic to get the live-action treatment and it is further proof that Disney is doing something right with these remakes. This is a loud, colorful, exciting film featuring a show-stopping performance from Will Smith.
Aladdin doesn’t deviate far from the original story, as good hearted street rat Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finds a magical lamp with a wisecracking genie inside (Will Smith) who helps him win over the love and affection of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) while also stopping the EVIL plan of the Sultan’s most trusted advisor, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari).
Aladdin is directed by Guy Ritchie, the director behind such British action flicks as Snatch, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Sherlock Holmes. He’s an interesting choice for the film, as Ritchie films tend to lean more towards style over substance, with striking images, a lot of slow motion, and heavy editing. Luckily, Disney reined Ritchie in a little bit for this one. This is a visually stunning movie, but not because of Ritchie’s visual touch. Yes, there are some slow-motion shots that don’t fit, some scattered editing, particularly in the beginning when Aladdin is running through the streets, and some interesting camera choices, like the 360 degree camera move during Naomi Scott’s “Speechless 2” number, but those are really the only Ritchie moves in the film. Aladdin succeeds as a visual treat because of the bright colors, clean visuals, beautiful costumes, and stunning set design. The costumes and set design all deserve Oscar nominations, as they bring us to the world of Agrabah as soon as we enter. The “Prince Ali” set piece, my favorite in the film, had me in complete awe, and the iconic “A Whole New World” was done beautifully.
The 1992 Aladdin is one of the more beloved Disney films, especially for those who grew up in the 90’s. A lot of the love for the film came from Robin Williams’ legendary performance as Genie, which is one of the great animated voice performances ever put on film. A lot of skepticism going into this live-action Aladdin was on Will Smith playing Genie, not because Smith isn’t talented enough, but because it seemed almost impossible to fill Williams’ shoes. Smith doesn’t fill Williams’ shoes, but rather wears his own pair. This isn’t a reincarnation of Williams’ Genie, this is Will Smith’s interpretation of the character and Smith makes it his own. Smith is sensational, giving us a Genie that is incredibly fun, funny, and full of swagger. The characterization of Genie is the same, he’s got loads of sass and endless powers who stays loyal to his master, but Smith gives him a new attitude that works wonders. The chemistry between him and Massoud – who gives a great performance as our titular character – is delightful, as the two quip and bicker back-and-forth. There’s a lot to like about this movie, but Smith is the star.
What Aladdin does best is be different movie but keep the same themes as the original, which is different than the other Disney live-action remakes. Cinderella was a pretty straight-forward remake, Beauty and the Beast was too different from its original source material, as was Dumbo, which played more as a movie about Tim Burton’s career than as a remake. Aladdin is a mixture of being different while also staying close to the original. The themes about loyalty, being yourself, female empowerment, and what it truly means to be in love are all there, but in a new visual style with a few added bits. This allows people who grew up with the original to appreciate the story and engage in the new visuals as well as allows people new to the material to get the same story and learn the same lessons as the original.
Aladdin is a visual stunner filled with awards-worthy costumes, sets, and visuals. The cast is perfect, led by Will Smith’s best performance in nearly fifteen years and the story and themes keep true to the original film. This is one of Disney’s stronger live-action remakes and makes me excited for the next ones to come.
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