We're living in an era of live-action remakes, and at the end of the day they're essentially either a failure or a success. Luckily for Disney, the 2019 reincarnation of 'Aladdin' is more or less the latter, but that doesn't mean there aren't some hiccups along the way.
The Guy Ritchie film opens in an unexpected way, which made first impressions pretty poor. Luckily, it seems to improve as it goes along. The scenery is beautiful, and the music is sweeping, Will Smith's 'Arabian Nights' is done well... However it lacks some of the mystery and intrigue so many are familiar with.
Mena Massoud's Aladdin is passable, there's certainly charm there and the stunts/fight choreography/parkour scenes all work well and are nostalgic and familiar. He pulls them off very well. There's something a little off about him, though... An element of playfulness that either doesn't exist or is hard to see within him. Thankfully it's not awfully distracting, and the movie can be enjoyed despite this.
There was controversy surrounding the fact that Naomi Scott (Jasmine) is not Middle-Eastern. But that's another story all together. We're here to discuss the quality of the film and its performances, and Naomi Scott does a brilliant job. She's a Disney Princess for a new generation, and though her new added solo song feels a little jarring and not quite on-theme with the rest of the film, it's a beautiful moment. She glimmers, as does her handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad). There's great chemistry here.
Aladdin's monkey Abu is surprisingly charming, with a number of the laugh-out-loud moments in the film attributed to him. The same can be said for the magic carpet and its tassel hands, although, it would be pretty dire for Disney to screw up the animation of an inanimate object.
However the real star of the show, much like the original film, is the Genie.
Stepping into the legendary Robin Williams' shoes, Will Smith should be proud of his portrayal. It was never going to be a replica, but in saying that, it shouldn't have been. This was Will's chance to make the Genie his own, while also paying homage to the incredible persona that was crafted so well back in 1992.
He's still as camp as ever, and I applaud Will for really diving into this role and bringing the Genie to life to the best of his ability. Many of those 'rulebook' and 'making Aladdin into a prince' gags are kept in, with some new lines and physical/shapeshifting comedy that is really helped by Will's chops in the field of funny. The CGI when Genie is in his recognisable blue form, on the other hand, is at most acceptable. The production team definitely made changes in comparison to that ghastly teaser trailer, but a little more fine-tuning may have really brought the illusion to life.
Jafar.... Hmm... Jafar. This was a bad casting choice (Marwan Kenzari) from day one, and post-watch, I still stand by it. He is a new kind of evil; a lot more low-key, psychopathic and, honestly, kind of disturbing. But it doesn't work properly here. There are certain things that are reworked and made new in this reincarnation which make sense; sadly this is one of the things that doesn't. Iago is great, though.
Classic songs such as 'A Whole New World' and 'Prince Ali' are fun, and have been moved from animation to live-action gracefully. 'Prince Ali' is particularly enjoyable, with all of its colours and flamboyance as Aladdin makes his way through the streets of Agrabah atop the elephant version of Abu.
There are a few small shifts to the story that some purists may shake their head at. Aladdin doesn't steal bread to trigger 'One Jump Ahead' (even though the line “gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat” remains in the song). Jafar doesn't dress as an old prisoner to coax Aladdin into entering the Cave Of Wonders.
If you can overlook that, and the slightly unfinished feel of the Genie's CGI, 2019's 'Aladdin' is a success story with classic Disney vibes, great comedic timing from the likes of Will Smith, Nasim Pedrad, and Abu (yep!), and acceptable re-dos of the famous music throughout.