Published on May 24th, 2019 | by Curtis Mayfield
Aladdin – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on the 21st of May 2019
Disney presents a film by Guy Ritchie
Written by John August and Guy Ritchie
Produced by Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari and Navid Negahban
Music by Alan Menken
Cinematography: Alan Stewart
Edited by James Herbert
Running Time: 128 minutes
Release Date: the 23rd of May 2019
2019 might be the year of Disney. The House of Mouse has dominated the first half of the year and June hasn’t even hit yet. Dumbo was not an overwhelming success, but the future remains bright. Avengers: Endgame is shaping up to be the biggest movie of the decade as it creeps closer to breaking the record for highest grossing film (suck it, James Cameron). Combine that with the future releases of Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and it’s safe to say that Disney might gross enough money to open a theme park on Mars.
You can now load Aladdin into the chamber of the Disney cannon as our favourite Middle Eastern thief with a heart of gold receives the live-action treatment. Based on the 1992 animated film of the same, Aladdin is riding the wave that the live‑action/CGI tsunami The Jungle Book started back in 2016. Actor Mena Massoud perfectly steps into the shoes of the beloved cartoon character as his blinding smile and undeniable charm take over the screen.
Aladdin, as a film and character, hits all the same beats as the original. For example, the song lyrics and dialogue are said verbatim. There are updates and changes though, including Princess Jasmine having more screen time than before and Jafar being transformed into a younger, hotter version of the cartoon villain.
Watching the first two acts is like witnessing a Matrix version of the nostalgic classic where the characters and settings have come to life. As you marvel at Aladdin and his monkey sidekick, Abu, escaping guards in the city streets of the fictional Agrabah, you will like feel being wrapped up in a warm blanket of nostalgic comfort.
However, a bloated third act makes this two-hour kids movie almost collapse under its own weight. Director Guy Ritchie has slipt the movie down the middle with amazing, attention-stealing moments to very run-of-the-mill set pieces.
It’s far from bad though. The familiarity of the story will resonate nicely for long time Disney fans as the musical numbers are the shining point. For those unfamiliar with the original, Aladdin is a classic story about the title character’s journey from street thief to becoming a prince from the help of a magic genie.
Mix in a compassionate princess and a deceitful royal advisor and you’ve already caught up. Now let’s address the big blue elephant in the room. The late great Robin Williams immortalised the cartoon genie with stream of consciousness and celebrity impressions. After the comedian’s passing it was clear that no one could fill this giant role so it makes sense that another larger than life actor would assume the part.
This brings us to Will Smith who is coated in CGI blue smoke and rocking a topknot. The film’s trailers released early this year did no favours for Mr. Smith as the hate began to be typed out by hardcore fans. The marketing behind Aladdin may have let the Fresh Prince down because he is one of the better aspects of this movie and the trailers don’t show that. The film’s musical numbers stay true to the original with a remix or two thrown in. Expect great renditions of ‘Friend Like Me’, ‘Prince Ali’, and ‘A Whole New World’.
Smith’s vocal cords must be still warmed up from his musical days because the guy has enough charisma and vocal strength to carry this movie to where it needs to go. The same can be said of Naomi Scott’s performance as Princess Jasmine. Scott embodies Jasmine perfectly as a character and symbol for feminism and has the singing skills to match.
Another aspect of the story that’s been updated for the 21st Century is Marwan Kenzari. He is a lot younger than the cartoon portrayal and plays the villain, Jafar. Jafar’s plan to remove from Princess Jasmine and her Sultan father (Navid Negahban) is given more logic and motivation this time. We learn that he rose through the ranks from a pick pocket to become an advisor to the royal family. Kenzari’s evil stare pierces the soul, as any good movie villain should. SNL’s Nasim Pedrad is a little underused as she plays the comic relief version of Jasmine’s handmaiden.
Unfortunately, just because the bar has been set low due to sceptical YouTube comments and genie memes does not make for a perfect movie. The colours don’t pop as much as they should considering this is based on an animated film. The chemistry between the two leads isn’t all the way there either, which really rains on the parade of the love story.
Massoud and Scott will go far in their careers but the two probably shouldn’t aim to work with each other again anytime soon. Regardless, the film is not the disaster audiences (or me for that matter) were expecting. The acting is fine, the musical numbers are fantastic, and the plot, though a little drawn out (two-hours plus for a kid’s movie? Come on!), is solid. Aladdin sits alongside the live-action Beauty and the Beast but doesn’t quite beat Disney’s latest reboots of their classic cartoon back catalogue. Here’s hoping The Lion King is better.
Summary: The acting is fine, the musical numbers are fantastic, and the plot, though a little drawn out, is solid.