Movie Review: ‘Aladdin’

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar, Alan Tudyk, Frank Welker

Plot: A homeless thief on the streets of ancient Agrabah named Aladdin falls in love with the Princess after a chance encounter. When he gets his hands on a magic lamp containing a genie he has to chance to change his fortune.

First Review (By Amelia, Age 6): (Contains mild spoilers) I really liked it so much. I think you should see it. Jasmine had more dresses than in the cartoon, it only had one dress. I liked that Abu was a real monkey. At the end instead of turning in to a giant snake, Jafar turned Iago in to a giant bird. I liked it because they had something different. My favourite song is ”A Whole New World”.

Rating: TEN out of TEN

Second Review (By G-Funk, Age 39): We’re in the midst of a weird trend in which Disney is turning out live-action remakes of their most popular animated films. This has attracted a fair amount of criticism, and been described by many as a shameless cash-grab, which is an understandable reaction. They don’t change enough to qualify as a reimagining but do change enough to cause ripples of plotholes as ‘problems’ with the original get ‘fixed’. Aladdin has attracted more criticism than most after the poor response to Will Smith as an ugly CGI genie and a flat looking clip of the ‘Prince Ali’ musical number. Many fans were also unhappy that the Genie was being recast at all, which is understandable as the memorable magical man wasn’t just perfected by Robin Williams but specifically based on him.

As a huge fan of animation in general and someone with a soft spot for Disney classics I often head in to these movies looking to answer one key question: is there a reason to watch this version over the original?

No. Not really. But it’s fun enough for a day out with the family.

Director Guy Ritchie is certainly an odd choice for this project. We’re not sure how Ritchie found himself in this particular director’s chair, but it is his most competent work in recent years. When the film opens we felt things were going to be pretty grim as the introductions to Aladdin (Massoud) and Princess Jasmine (Scott) are completely skipped over. We immediately see them meeting in the market with Jasmine in disguise and joining Aladdin in the second musical number ‘One Jump Ahead’. If you’re coming into this movie new you’ve got no sense of who these characters are of what motivates them.

The way this sequence is put together is also problematic. A live-action remake of an animated feature is going to be immediately hampered by the inability to replicate the speed and energy of the visuals, especially in a fast paced number like this. Combining that with Massoud singing his lines while performing parkour through the city is a recipe for disaster. Ritchie’s solution to this was, perplexingly enough, to speed up the footage every few seconds. I honestly cannot work out if we were supposed to notice they had done this or not, but it does not look good.

As the movie went on we did start to warm up to it though. The bright and colourful settings and visuals are always nice to look at and Massoud captures the easy charm of Aladdin. The next big musical number, ‘Friend Like Me’, is part of the Genie’s (Smith) introduction and it’s plenty of fun, almost on par with William’s original rendition. The CGI used to multiply Smith to provide a chorus of dancers and the rapidly shifting sets and props are really nicely done. It is, however, telling that the best parts of the movie are the ones that are more animated, literally and figuratively.

We also mentioned the ‘Prince Ali’ sequence being used as part of the marketing and we’re confused as to why. It starts out flat and uninteresting with Smith’s Genie lazily performing simple dance moves before picking up speed and showing the Genie zipping around the crowd and impressive dancers taking centre stage. Why the marketing only featured the dull build-up is confusing to say the least. Almost any other musical sequence would have made for better advertising material.

One of the little changes made to the story is the introduction of Dalia (Pedrad), a handmaiden and friend to Jasmine. She provides some comic relief and provides Jasmine with someone to talk to. This seems fine of the surface but it means that Jasmine has almost no scenes with her father, the Sultan (Negahban), meaning that we never see the love and affection they have for each other and each of their motivations for why the Sultan is protective of Jasmine and why she yearns to escape. Dalia also become a love interest for the Genie, which is…weird. In real life the actors are more than 20 years apart in age and in the film the Genie is centuries old. We’re never given a reason why they’re attracted to each other…they just are.

Jasmine get’s a bit more character in this movie, but again its weirdly handled. She not only wants to be more independent and not assigned to a life as a wife to a ruler, she has political ambition of her own. We don’t get much reasoning behind this, what drives her to want to be a Sultan herself and what she intends to do when she achieves this…she just wants to be a Sultan. Naomi Scott is an amazing singer and her new original songs are very good, but her biggest moment gets clumsily slotted into the film just as the final confrontation is gearing up, bringing the third act to a grinding halt.

In conclusion this is an unnecessary remake with some perplexing decisions spread through an otherwise entertaining and colourful adventure.

Rating: SIX out of TEN