‘Aladdin’ Review – It’s A Whole New Something

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Disney’s latest attempt at a live-action remake has taken on Aladdin. Sadly the attempt fell on auto-toned ears. Going into the film, I didn’t have high exceptions simply due to what I had seen from the marketing so far. Will Smith’s appearance and take on Genie had me concerned the most. Granted, comparing him to Robin Williams who only voiced Genie is probably unfair. Yet you can’t help but compare the two when watching.

What Didn’t Work

So let’s talk about what didn’t work with Aladdin. Aladdin was just as much about its music as it was the story and the magic of it. There are many iconic songs from the original that are still to this day cherished. Disney decided they should redo them….with auto-tones. How exactly that decision got made, and how they thought it was good, would make for an interesting discussion. Add to that Will Smith’s ‘Fresh Prince’ vibe during several numbers and you have to wonder what they were aiming for. Regardless, they over shot.

The musical numbers were also at times inserted into very serious scenes and you couldn’t help but start laughing because it just felt out of place. Iago was basically irrelevant to the film, save a few funny parrot copying moments. As a child I remember Iago a lot more for the birds voice and ability to get right into the middle of the trouble. Gilbert Gottfried’s voice is unique and he was voicing an animation, so I could overlook that, but the bird was just irrelevant in this remake.

Will Smith as Genie

Now how about Genie, played by Will Smith. When we first saw the preview with him all blue, everyone was in an uproar over it. I too was concerned over how this would play out on screen. The blue didn’t bother me after seeing how it was done. I was okay with the look and wardrobe they ended up going with for Genie. Will Smith however, tried to put too much of that ‘Fresh Prince’ vibe into his character and it ended up distracting you from several scenes that would have made the film better for the viewers to stay immersed in.

Guy Richie has a very distinct style when it comes to his films and it shows here too. Some of the fast motion scenes which drop into slow motion, while the music is still going at normal speed, leaves you feeling like you just left a VR rollercoaster but its not nearly as immersive or fun.

What I Enjoyed

Putting all the negative aside for a moment, the film still had me reminiscing about the days as a child when I first watched Aladdin. Abu and the magic carpet were by far the stars of the film. The magic of that pair carried through from the original to the remake. In fact there are a few Disney call outs in the movie if you watch closing to little Abu getting into trouble.

The casting of Jasmine, Aladdin and Jafar played by Naomi Scott, Mena Massoud and Marwan Kenzari were all great picks for the roles. The set design and bright color choices were excellent in bringing out the importance of their surroundings in each scene.

Overall

Aladdin’s biggest issue was deciding what it wanted to be. Disney couldn’t decide if they wanted to have a live action remake of a classic, a modern day empowerment documentary, or a rap video. Yet, Aladdin came in better than my expectations, but the bar wasn’t very high to start. Competing with the original is difficult and in many ways unfair as you are comparing animation to live action.

Disney’s need to add political agenda or modern day movements into their stories is starting to damage the stories they are trying to tell. Not because the things are putting in are bad, but because they are doing it in a way that its forced on the viewer and sticks out in the narrative. Jasmine, for example, has a scene where she sings “Speechless” in an effort to explain to the audience that she has no voice in this world but she plans to fight back. As if the audience needed this song to remind them of that given we LITERALLY had a scene earlier where her father told her with their laws she has no voice and she replied she will fight to change it. Apparently Disney feels the audience is too simple to get it.

Aladdin hits theaters tomorrow.

Robert Prentice