Aladdin (2019)
Aladdin (2019)

Genre: Adventure, Fairy Tale, and Musical Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.

Release Date: May 24th, 2019 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Guy Ritchie Actors: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Alan Tudyk

 


 

W

hen “street rat” Aladdin (Mena Massoud) rescues a beautiful maiden in the Agrabah bazaar, the two are immediately drawn to each other. Believing her to be a handmaiden to the princess, Aladdin visits her again by breaking into the Sultan’s Palace, but is soon afterwards apprehended by Royal Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Revealing to the thief that the young girl is in fact Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), Jafar offers him a chance at untold riches in exchange for retrieving an old oil lamp from a cave. Unbeknownst to Aladdin, it is no ordinary cave, and no ordinary lamp. When Jafar betrays him and the resourceful scavenger is trapped within the Cave of Wonders, he uses the ancient reliquary to release a cosmically powerful Genie (Will Smith). With his newfound friend, a flying carpet, and his faithful pet monkey Abu, Aladdin sets off on a magical adventure to win the heart of Jasmine and vanquish the Sultan’s dastardly advisor.

“No, no. No singing. It’s been a long day,” avows a mariner (also Will Smith), who, of course, follows up that statement by transitioning into a grand song. The shift in narrator, followed by tiny alterations to the beloved 1992 Disney original, don’t immediately betray the modernization and sanitization of the classic tale. A fully computer-animated Abu, however, is the first of many changes that furnish a hint of phoniness in a world that now demands a greater suspension of disbelief, thanks to the live-action realism.

Despite the former feature being a traditionally-animated cartoon, this remake is considerably toned down – from the costuming to the jokes to the various behaviors of mild antagonists and outright villains alike. In the politically-correct realm of 2019, it’s no longer appropriate for Jasmine to bare her midriff; nor can an enraged street vendor threaten to cut off a thief’s hand for stealing a piece of food. Fortunately, these are subtle shifts, unlike a more prominent subplot for Jasmine, who wishes to be the city’s ruler herself. It’s not a bad message, but it’s a blatant one, which garners its own new song (the first time it’s sung, it’s practically only a single verse, and it hardly matches the rest of the familiar music, sounding too present-day). Because of its obviousness, this modernized component – along with several others – doesn’t come across as an authentic or organic innovation; it feels forced, as if any morally questionable, old-fashioned routine must be highlighted and excised. It is, however, undeniably potent, especially when the utter lack of women’s rights are prominently exposed in the ancient land. Curiously, it seems to arrive at the expense of anticipated set pieces toward the finale, which audiences may find to be disappointingly absent.

“Why are you playing hard to wish?” Other differences are chiefly due to the director and cast. Guy Ritchie’s predilections are unmistakable in his approach to action sequences, during which he manipulates the speed of film, plays with camera angles, and edits shots for unnatural freneticism. The magic carpet, Abu’s transformation into an elephant, and the interiors of the Cave of Wonders also prosper from advanced technology, boasting photorealistic movement, a stunning metamorphosis, and harrowing environmental calamities, respectively. Of course, these are largely insignificant background items.

Clearly, the most difficult hurdle here is the starring role of the genie; it takes a very long time to buy into Will Smith’s portrayal. The half-CG, half-blue-face-painted abomination, adorned with 3D-animated accoutrements, is too weird to fully enjoy at the start. The script imparts some new, funny comic relief (including slapstick and awkward courting, with the genie even receiving his own love interest), tailor-made to fit this contemporary conception, but Smith’s performance is simply devoid of the over-the-top gusto of Robin Williams. Essentially, Williams is irreplaceable. This mediocre substitution isn’t enough to ruin the spectacular songs or the powerful story, but the magic just isn’t thoroughly captured; watching this live-action iteration isn’t better than revisiting the Ron Clement and John Musker masterpiece.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10