It’s been hard to gauge the level of anticipation for Disney’s recent streak of live-action adaptations. While many reboot attempts such as the recent Dumbo have seen lackluster reception from both critics and audiences, so far none have resulted in a complete box office disaster. So as far as Disney is concerned, there is a legitimate audience for these movies. So whether the truth of the studio’s live-action adaptations up to and including this month’s Aladdin is, at worst, an ill-advised cash grab, or at best, an honest attempt to revive a classic story for a new generation, the fact is that the House of Mouse is continuing to put butts in seats.
And honestly, I wish I had something more significant to say about director Guy Ritchie’s take on the 1992 classic. I think I stand with much of the general public when I say that my expectations for Aladdin were low to mediocre. However, in all fairness, I will say that the movie did (though minimally) exceed those expectations overall. My two biggest worries going in were Will Smith’s take on the Genie, and any adaptations to the plot and themes. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by both.
When it comes to one of the legendary Robin Williams’s most iconic characters, many fans were reasonably concerned with the announcement of Will Smith’s Fresh take (I’m so sorry). Last November, a first look at the blue, rubbery, CGI performance in the film’s teaser didn’t do much to help matters. But while the end result doesn’t necessarily do justice to Williams’s take, it doesn’t completely disrespect it either. In fact, a lot of what Will Smith brings to the character doesn’t seem like its trying to even touch Robin Williams, which is probably for the best. In other words, if there had to be a Will Smith version of the Genie, this wasn’t bad for what it was. Where the Fresh Prince could have gone overboard, for the most part he didn’t. Even the most cynical fans will find some degree of fun in this film’s shots at the “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” numbers. If nothing else, both of these are absolute visual spectacles complete with exciting choreography. While some of Smith’s performance can come off somewhat derivative and even lazy, his best moments see him taking advantage of the character’s whacky, cartoonish potential.
As far the rest of the film’s leading cast goes, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott (Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively) do about as well as they need to. While the script provides several moments for both actors that miss the mark in terms of charm, there is a lot of legitimate chemistry between the two. This even includes added musical moments that feel blatantly unnecessary. However, Naomi Scott does stick out as a vocal talent in the film, something which was likely intended.
Personally I would rank Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin above the live action versions of Beauty and the Beast as well as Dumbo. While it still doesn’t come close to the Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book (a gold-standard as far as I’m concerned), Aladdin does a better job than its other predecessors at adapting the original story. With many of these reboots, much of their failure comes from the writers adding more to the story than the screenplay can do justice to. This isn’t as much the case with Aladdin.While the film has plenty of quirks that are unintentionally laughable, there are also a few legitimately funny scenes. Furthermore, even at the film’s messiest, there is still thematic consistency, exploring the ideas of how pretending to be someone you’re not will ultimately get you in trouble, while being yourself will make you the happiest.
Where the film isn’t mindblowing, it also isn’t offensively disappointing. Like I said, I wish I had something more significant to say about it, but the fact is it will likely generate enough money for Disney to to justify continuing to adapt its animated classics to live-action. While it’s inevitable for each of these projects to be scrutinized under the comparison to their respective originals, that alone will be enough to get fans to watch them. In fact, maybe that was the plan the whole time…
Release Date: May 24, 2019
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban
Studios: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Guy Ritchie
Run Time: 128 minutes
Official Website: https://movies.disney.com/aladdin-2019
Official Social Media Pages:
IMDb Page: @DisneyAladdin
Jake Hardison | Writing Contributor
A.A | Digital Broadcast Arts | Palomar College
Jake is a second year student at Palomar College pursuing transfer to a university to study TV, Film, and New Media. At Palomar’s radio station, KKSM AM 1320, Jake hosts a weekly movie and entertainment news show called Morning Wood on Mondays from 6-9 am. Jake is an avid fan of pop culture and all things fandom, and has been especially passionate about film and music his entire life. Engaging in skills such as filmmaking, singing, acting, broadcast, voiceover, and writing, his interests are diverse, yet revolve around enthusiasm for the art of storytelling. Jake currently hopes to pursue a career in entertainment reporting and eventually break into other forms of media. Instagram: @JakeHardison_17 | View My Articles
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