'Aladdin' (2019) A Whole New Movie Review
I was born in ’92, so I can’t speak from any sort of theatrical or cultural impact for when the original Disney animated feature (Aladdin) was released in November of that year since I was exactly nine months old at the time. However, Aladdin was still a major deal during my childhood years of the nineties and early 2000s. I absolutely adored the film as a kid and even though it has been a number of years since I have last viewed the movie, I still love it to this day. The characters are all memorable and colorful in their own ways, Robin Williams gives one of his most iconic vocal performances of his whole career, all the songs are terrifically catchy and are presently stuck in my head on an endless loop, the animation itself is gorgeous, and it is sheer fun from start to finish. Trust me when I say that once I am done typing away about its remake, I will be revisiting the original immediately after.
The Disney Remake Assembly Line
For the last five years or so, Disney has been putting in an overhaul effort in remaking their own classic animated properties to transform them into ‘live-action’ films to supply a supposed modern update on the timeless tales. By ‘live-action’, I more or less mean with a massive abundance of CGI. This year alone will contain four ‘live-action’ Disney remakes, along with a sequel to one of their own previous remakes from a few years back now. To date, I have been relatively underwhelmed by the majority of these live-action efforts. Basically with most of the entries being no more than the averagely mediocre shot-for-shot remake that accomplishes nothing new or original in any way, capturing not even a fraction of the charm or magic that made the originals into the classics they became, nor justifying their existences by any stretch of the imagination.
There have been the occasional exceptions that I found myself fond of that were produced in the last five years. Actually, only one comes to mind. That being the remake of Pete’s Dragon; in all honestly, I absolutely loved that remake. Probably more so than the original. Other than that, I really have not been enthusiastic about any other installment. Although, admittedly, I have sadly not gotten the chance to see the remake of Dumbo. That is one I’m actually looking forward to since the original animated Dumbo is my all time favorite Disney cartoon. Getting back on track though, aside from Dumbo (since I haven’t seen it yet) and Pete’s Dragon, the Disney live-action remakes have been total disappointments. Especially Beauty and the Beast, that was awful. No, I will not take it back. The Beauty and the Beast remake sucked. No backsies.
Like the rest of the world, I was very worried when that first trailer of the Aladdin remake came out earlier this year. That one terrifying shot of the obviously unfinished special effects work done on Will Smith as Genie seen in that preview was enough to fuel my nightmares for the next several years. However, now I have finally seen the film in its entirety… what did I think of the latest remake in this long line of remakes? I’m going to just stop dancing around my opinions on this movie and flat out say that I enjoyed it. Full disclosure, the 2019 Aladdin legitimately contains all of the flaws that I had mentioned prior; it is a shot-for-shot remake that takes very little chances or risks with its material, it doesn’t have anything new or original to provide as a fresh take on the story, and it isn’t nearly as whimsically lovable as the animated picture. With all that said, for whatever reason, I still had a good time at this movie. I thought that the charm from the cartoon managed to stay alive in its remake enough to entertain, at least for myself.
Have you seen the 1992 animated flick? Well then you know what this is about.
The Plot. Really This Time.
A street urchin with a heart of gold, named Aladdin (Mena Massoud), finds himself falling head over heels for the princess of Agrabah, Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Aladdin soon comes to the realization that the only way he can truly be with the love of his life is by becoming a prince and he sees an opportunity for that coming true through the magical powers of a Genie (Will Smith). Amidst his efforts to woo the princess, the Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) has sinister plans of his own to take control of Agrabah.
What Sold Me On This Remake?Click thumbnail to view full-size
Will Smith and Mena Massoud. Those two actors are strictly the larger reason why I was so entertained by this film. Mystery solved. I thought that Smith and Massoud had solid comedic chemistry and they both did well in their roles. Massoud is practically Aladdin in humified form; I’m convinced that there were scientists that made this dude in a lab somewhere to create the real life figure of the Aladdin character. In all seriousness, this duo gave sufficiently likable performances that emotionally roped me into the narrative. Even though it was in some rather shallow ways that the film succeeded with engaging me, it still worked and I will give it credit for doing so.
The Genie in the RoomClick thumbnail to view full-size
I think it is worth specifically noting that Will Smith is not trying to do any sort of impression of Robin Williams in any way shape or form while acting in the role of Genie. Smith makes this role his own and I mean that as a compliment. I think in all of our minds when it was announced that Will Smith would be taking on the Genie role, many of us were concerned and confused. Mainly because we probably attempted to figure out the combination of both Robin Williams and Will Smith, resulting in no one having a clue as to how that could ever work. Well… it couldn’t. Will Smith needed to bring his own unique personality and flavor to the role and that is what he did. This is 100% Will Smith’s Genie and I enjoyed him quite a bit because of that. Smith and the friendship that his character forms with Aladdin presented a slightly different approach than the previous film, I appreciated that aspect about this remake. I wished that more of this movie could have done something similar to that in taking familiar roles and executing a slightly different spin on them. Sadly that of Will Smith as Genie is one of the very few things that differentiates itself from the original animation. I liked it nonetheless though.
The Theatrical SpectacleClick thumbnail to view full-size
I do not know if I necessarily recommend checking this latest adaptation of Aladdin out in a theater, but I will say that if one does find themselves in their nearest local theater then I will say that they will at the very least be treated to some cinematic eye candy. This is a grand looking film, even though I would argue that the original accomplished more in its visuals, the remake still has plenty to offer in its spectacle. Big musical numbers that are energetic and catchy, cool looking action beats that are neat to watch, beautiful costume and set designs in practically every frame, and well enough crafted special effects to make it all look good. I would not say that because of all these positives that I’m listing should make the remake a “must see”, but if someone winds up begrudgingly seeing this then they might still have a chance for a fun time because of these specific aspects. Not a guarantee depending on the person’s mood and attitude, but I figured I would provide some positives as to why it happened to work on me.
Guy Ritchie’s style rarely shines through within the film’s aesthetics, however they were present every now and again. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen much more of Ritchie’s specific flare as I think that would have added immensely to the picture. Maybe even supplying the movie more to separate itself from the original in a good way. As it is, it’s still visually appealing, but the cinematography is nothing all that special for the most part. It is serviceable and competent certainly, has plenty of bright and flashy colors, not extending much further than that degree.
Why I Prefer the Original
Boy, oh boy. Doesn’t that already sound like the pompous cliché? It’s easy to say that nothing will beat the original when it comes to many new adaptations of a past source material. I’m one that knows that most remakes don’t work or are simply unnecessary, but I always want to give them a chance to prove their worth. I want to be entertained by film, that’s why I watch it. Even if I believe a film will most likely be terrible, I still try to at least keep a shred of optimism in hopes that it will be good in some way. I did exactly that here with this remake and I don’t believe that it is necessary or proves any reason as to why it exists, but it still at least managed to entertain me. However, that doesn’t excuse it from some the things it did wrong. Aside from the criticisms I mentioned previously.
The characters, outside of Aladdin and Genie, aren’t nearly as charismatic or memorable as they were in the animated film. The Sultan character (Navid Negahban), Jasmine’s father, is bland here. Jasmine herself is as generic as generic can be. Even Rajah the tiger, Iago the parrot, and the magic carpet from the original felt more colorful as characters; in this remake though, they are nothing characters. Blank slates that benefit practically jack in the way of secondary characters. With all that though, the worst offender in the character department is that of Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari. Not to say that Kenzari’s performance was by definition bad, but he was a severely underwhelming antagonist and that is mainly due to his performance. There’s nothing intimidating about Jafar here, nothing that makes me see him as any sort of legitimate threat. Jafar comes across as a whiny, privileged brat that the makeup artists tried too hard at making him look sexy. It was distracting how much this villain failed at leaving an impression.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I believe that the biggest issue with Jafar lies within his voice. This is quite possibly the wimpiest voice I’ve ever heard come from a villain that was supposed to be taken seriously. Every time this dude opened his mouth I was always expecting him to cry to the Sultan about how he was a big boy and he should be in charge because “Nanna nanna boo boo”. It was ridiculous. The original Jafar was creepy, held an intimidating presence, and was a crafty baddie. Remake Jafar is a GQ magazine model that thinks he has to prove something to his unapproving daddy. I’m not sure how much of the fault should fall on the actor or the director or the casting in general. I do know that something should have been done to avoid this misstep though.
There are some other minor details that make a fumble or two, such as the new inclusion of Genie retaining a romantic subplot. Not a bad idea by any means, my only real problem was that it barely made a difference and I would have liked to have seen it develop a bit further. Another issue I had was also the new song written for the remake, Speechless. It shows up twice in the film, once early on in the first act for only about thirty seconds, which was fine at the time. When it comes back into the third act is where my troubles truly reside with the song as the pacing stops dead in its tracks to turn into a really bad music video that added absolutely nada. It’s not a very good song and the fact that it was wedged in so lazily only made it worse.
Overall, the remake doesn’t come anywhere close to the heights that the original had soared decades beforehand. There was lightning in a bottle that could never be replicated, no matter how hard anyone tries. However, it is my belief that because that lightning was so strong within the screenplay of the original, it was able to infect this new adaptation with some of its charm. Would I say that people should rush to the theater as soon as humanly possible to see this remake? Unlikely. If someone had a choice between popping either the original or the remake on the television, I would easily suggest the 1992 animated flick over the live-action remake. Would I say that the remake is bad? No. Would I say that it was necessary. No. Would I say that it at least succeeded as decent enough entertainment? Certainly. Regardless of its flaws and how unnecessary it really is, I still had fun with it. Keep an open mind if the occasion arises of watching this remake and there shouldn’t be any major issues. Hopefully. Will Smith and Mena Massoud carry this movie on their backs to make this a mostly enjoyable experience. It could never replace the love I have for the ’92 picture, but it doesn’t taint anything either. It’s fine. What more could I say? Not sure how clear of a recommendation I’ve made here, I only hope that if one seeks it out that they enjoy their sit, but don’t let this be the first Aladdin that a parent shows their children. Let it be the animation, please?
Which 'Aladdin' Did It Better?
Which theatrical version of 'Aladdin' did you prefer?
That's All Folks!
Aladdin 2019, what do you think? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wish that Will Smith would visit you in your wildest dreams? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a magically delicious day… Okay, now it’s weird.
© 2019 John Plocar