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Review: Aladdin (2019)

Aladdin (2019)

Directed by: Guy Ritchie 

Premise: A live action remake of Disney’s 1992 animated film. A street thief (Mena Massoud) acquires a magic lamp and uses his wishes to win the heart of a princess (Naomi Scott). Meanwhile, the kingdom’s Grand Vizier (Marwan Kenzari) schemes to take the lamp.

What Works: Disney is in the midst of remaking many of its classic animated features and Aladdin is distinguished by the filmmakers’ willingness to revise the material. Unlike Disney’s utterly redundant Beauty and the Beast remake, the live action version of Aladdin isn’t slavishly dependent upon the original. It is fundamentally the same story—this isn’t as inspired as the new version of Dumbo—but the best parts of the new movie are its embellishments of the original material. Will Smith is cast at the genie, famously played by Robin Williams in the 1992 film, and Smith makes the role his own. Just as the animated Aladdin visualized Williams’ associative comic style, the live action film utilizes Smith’s coolness and charisma. The scenes of the genie coaching Aladdin in romance are right out of Hitch. The new Aladdin also improves and streamlines some of the plotting. The opening consolidates several scenes from the original story and the screenwriters smooth over some of the forced plot turns of the original film.

What Doesn’t: While the new additions to 2019’s Aladdin are mostly successful, the new film is, on the whole, inferior to the 1992 movie. Filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s usually kinetic filmmaking style is constricted and 2019’s Aladdin frequently feels baggy and sluggish. The story’s major emotional beats don’t land nearly as well as they did in the 1992 version. The production design is not convincing. Quite often the backgrounds look like a live performance staged at Disney World; that’s especially true of sequences taking place on the streets of Agrabah. The look of the movie seems geared to preserve the visual texture of animation and the filmmakers don’t take advantage of the live action format. This renders the film superfluous. There is no point to making a live action Aladdin that looks like an animated film when a full-fledged animated version of this story already exists. The new Aladdin also adds a few short songs but these are unnecessary. The function of songs in a musical is to provide insight into the characters or punch up the exposition. The new songs don’t do that and they come across as padding. The weakest element of 2019’s Aladdin is the characters. With the exception of Will Smith’s genie, no one is interesting or has any personality or depth. There is little romantic chemistry between Aladdin and Jasmine and supporting characters are underwritten. Especially disappointing is Jafar, the villainous sorcerer played by Marwan Kenzari. The actor is not threatening at all and without an intimidating villain or an engaging love story the rest of the drama falls flat.

Bottom Line: The remake of Aladdin is stuck between paying homage to the original and making its own way. The result is a bland reiteration of the story with lackluster energy and uninteresting characters. Viewers are better off rewatching the 1992 film which will be remembered and enjoyed long after this remake is forgotten. 

Episode: #751 (June 2, 2019)