By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Disney’s plan for live action/CGI remakes continues with this update on the popular and acclaimed 1992 animated film. So far, most of Disney’s new remakes have either been good or great and this latest one barely makes good. Though the filmmakers attempt to better develop the characters, in particular Princess Jasmine, and also features a politically-themed subplot, the rest of the movie plays out like an slightly inferior re-enactment of the original. The filmmakers and new cast do a good recreating some of these magical moments, but overall this version fails to achieve new heights of magic.
Mena Massoud stars as the beloved thief and “street rat” Aladdin. In the Arabian kingdom of Agrabah, Aladdin and his trusty pet monkey Abu (Frank Welker) prowl the streets, stealing food and anything of value to survive. Meanwhile in the kingdom’s palace, the Sultan (Navid Negahban) keeps his daughter Jasmine (Naomi Scott) locked up for her own protection until a worthy Prince can woo her and ask for herhand in marriage.
Intelligent and defiant, Jasmine has no interest in marrying a prince and would prefer to lead her kingdom as the first female Sultan. Wanting a taste of some freedom, Jasmine secretly escapes the palace and explores the marketplace where she runs into Aladdin. The two almost instantly become smitten with one another, but because Aladdin is no prince, he will never be allowed to pursue a relationship. Through an awesome twist of fate, Aladdin acquires a magic lamp that houses powerful Genie (Will Smith). This is the opportunity the young man needs to pursue his dream woman, but great danger is imminent as a power hungry member of Sultan’s court greedily desires Aladdin’s treasure.
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, who co-wrote the screenplay with John August, 2019’s Aladdin is good fun, but doesn’t really offer audiences anything new. Though I (and I’m sure lots of women) appreciate that August and Ritchie attempt to better develop the Jasmine character, these new additions seem tacked onto the original story and interfere with the movie’s natural flow. Other additions and changes come across this way as well. The filmmakers have also inexplicably chosen to overextend the original movies climax with a messy and unnecessary action sequence.
Like the original, this version features the songs and music of Alan Menken. All of the songs from the original movie remain with a few new ones. Unfortunately the new tracks are not all that great or memorable. The entire cast all perform admirably in these musical numbers and offer some solid acting as well.
Mena Massoud gives a sweet and charming performance as Aladdin. His take on the character is a bit more awkward and less self-assured that the characters portrayal in the original. Naomi Scott gives a tremendous performance as Princess Jasmine. She perfectly exudes strength, defiance and conviction. She even has a great singing voice and is certainly the best singer of the cast.
As the villainous Jafar, Marwan Kenzari gives a rather dull performance. He lacks the utterly frightening and menacing presence that role requires. As for the magical and energetic Genie, Will Smith is fine, but simply lacks the energy, comic timing and singing voice of the late Robin Williams. Smith has charm, is rather amusing and put much heart into the role, really needed to go bigger and bolder with his acting choices.
And though, Smith, needed to expand his presence in the movie, I feel the filmmakers needed to scale down the movie some. The tacked on themes of colonialism and tacked on attempt at female empowerment just seemed to get in the movie’s way. Nevertheless, I had a goodtime watching this movie, but don’t have a huge desire to revisit. I gave this movie only two and a half stars because of its lack of exciting originality and because the storytelling feels a bit lazy. If one is a massive fan of the original movie, tgus remake might be fun, but nowhere near as magical as animated version.