Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Guy Ritchie, John August
Stars: Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban
My first thought after leaving my screening of Aladdin, Disney’s newest entry in their plan to do live-action remakes of all their animated classics was “well I don’t need to do an episode on that since it’s just basically influenced by the cartoon.” My second thought was, “I don’t know… It was alright, I guess.” My third thought was “Did I see that new live-action Aladdin movie yet?”
Totally inoffensive, average, and forgettable while being somewhat enjoyable (thanks mostly to a stand-out Will Smith doing his best to fill in Robin Williams’ shoes as Genie), Aladdin does a serviceable job of bringing the classic animated musical to life. A solid cast (thankfully one that hasn’t been whitewashed as Hollywood is known to do) does their best with the material, but while I would consider myself a fan of director Guy Ritchie despite a mixed filmography, I have to lay the blame of this adaptation’s laziness solely at his feet.
Take the musical numbers for example… Truly the standouts of the film with such classics as “A Whole New World,” “Friend Like Me,” and “Arabian Nights.” Musically speaking, they’re fantastic. The performers do beautiful renditions of them (we’ll give Will Smith’s voice a pass since he’s mainly just a rapper), and the orchestral performances are nothing short of amazing, but the scenes themselves seem like the main direction was “lets just fill every second with as much CGI stuff as we can so we don’t have to choreograph or plan on shooting anything specific.” It’s almost as if he didn’t really want to include the musical numbers but had to.
The action is similarly lazy and feature little of Ritchie’s usual love-it or hate-it visual flair. Mena Massoud does a perfectly respectable job of creating a real-life Aladdin that feels like the original, but his action sequences are few and far between, and once the magic carpet arrives, you can’t even tell if it’s him as he whips around the screen at top speeds. Naomi Scott similarly does a good job of bringing Princess Jasmine to life, but doesn’t really get to do much, and her forced new song “Speechless” feels out of place within the story (even if the actress is truly singing her heart out on the song).
So what it comes down to is Aladdin is basically Aladdin. If you loved the songs then, you’ll love the songs now. If you’re like me, you did some combination of eye-roll and spit-take when it was announced that Will Smith would play the Genie, but he really is the stand-out of the film… As was the Genie in the original. Like I said… Aladdin is Aladdin, and now you can watch it with real people if that’s what you’re into… But don’t expect anything new brought to the table by Guy Ritchie.