“Aladdin” is the latest in a long line of live-action remakes of old Disney animated classics that the studio plans to release. I really enjoyed “The Jungle Book” and I absolutely adored “Beauty and the Beast,” and despite some questionable visuals in the trailer, I still had hopes for this film. Unfortunately, lukewarm performances matched with a weak script and absolutely terrible visual effects, as well as questionable directing from Guy Ritchie, has created a genuine dud.
For almost the entire time that I was watching the film, I was wondering why I wasn’t just sitting in the comfort of my own home watching the original animated classic. Before I get to the film’s wide range of problems, I’ll go ahead and address the elephant in the room. Will Smith as the Genie actually turns out to not be half-bad.
The problem is that Smith is forced to repeat lines that original star Robin Williams was able to make pop in the original film that Smith just can’t pull off. Had the filmmakers allowed Smith to stick to his own charm and strengths as an actor, then his take on the character would have been way more memorable. Smith is also hindered by terrible visual effects, particularly when he’s the traditional blue Genie we remember from the animated film.
I thought that they might only use this version of the character sparingly and as a tribute to the animated version of the character. Unfortunately, Smith has to spend way too much time as a terrible CGI creation and it completely took me out of the film. Now, with the Genie out of the way, let’s move on to the rest of the film, particularly the weak script that comes off like it was written by someone who vaguely remembers the original film but forgot its genuine spirit.
Sure, the major moments are there as it is pretty much the same story with almost no deviations. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a thief on the streets of Agrabah that meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and wishes he was something more than how people view him. Eventually, he has a run-in with Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and the evil Grand Vizier to the Sultan (Navid Negahban) has the young man go into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve a lamp.
Aladdin gets the lamp, unleashes the Genie and you know the rest of the story. The terrible script is rushed through by Ritchie as we are abruptly introduced to Aladdin and he is propelled through his adventure with terribly choreographed sequences such as an embarrassing dance number in the Cave of Wonders. We are also forced to listen to lesser performances of musical hits from the original film such as “One Jump Ahead,” “Friend Like Me” and “Arabian Nights.”
The only song that they really do justice to is “A Whole New World,” but this number is sadly diminished by a terribly rendered flight on the Magic Carpet that has none of the impact that the original did.
Performance wise, and maybe it was due to Ritchie’s poor direction or the weak script, the entire cast in this film outside of Smith was lukewarm at best.
The only one who really seems to be trying is Kenzari as Jafar and even he goes too over-the-top at times. Despite the fact that this is based on an animated film, he shouldn’t really feel like a cartoon.
The whole movie feels like a middle school somewhere decided to put on a production of their favorite animated feature and Disney just gave them a sizable budget.
Massoud and Scott never really give you anything memorable as the main characters and I’m having trouble remembering them even now as I write up this review. Their chemistry is also nonexistent as I never really felt that these two even liked each other much less loved each other as they’re supposed to.
Now, this is a family film so I was in an audience filled with kids and their parents. Honestly, though, I never even saw or heard any of them react throughout the entire film. When the movie ended, the families slowly got up and walked out of the theater. By the end of the film, I imagine that the kids were wondering why their parents made such a big deal about this movie while the parents were probably wondering what had just happened to one of their beloved childhood classics.