A nostalgic joyride up to its eyes in glitz and glamour, Disney’s latest live action rendition of its beloved classic Aladdin is no doubt a sight to behold – but how far apart does it stand from the 1992 animated feature whose shoes it attempts to fill?
It goes without saying that Disney’s latest attempt at remaking the animated classics that launched their company to fame had a lot to live up to, with 1992’s Aladdin being a celebrated classic that many young adults would remember from their childhood. While the younger children (or adults who missed out on the animated classic) going in fresh-eyed will have a lot to process in 2019’s Aladdin, those who have seen the original might remember the film beat-by-beat.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything to enjoy about this latest re-telling. Directed by Guy Richie (Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword), the film uses a great blend of CGI and practical sets and costumes to create the land of Agrabah in stunning live action, replicating a lot of the grand scale of the original. While in some places the limitations of these sets didn’t quite live up to the larger-than-life appeal of its animated predecessor, there is still a huge amount of coordination in the choreography of dance and action that brings life to the already vibrant and lively locals.
Some of the greatest parts of this new rendition of Aladdin are the classic songs many will know and love from the original that have been given new life through modern movie magic. While the film’s first 30 minutes dragged on a bit, sequences for songs like Friend Like Me and Prince Ali were a sight to see on the big screen. A lot of the better parts of the musical numbers came from Will Smith’s Genie – a character that many were sceptical of after Robin Williams’ famed performance in the original.
I definitely had my doubts going into Aladdin that I’d like Smith’s new take on the Genie. Not only did Robin Williams knock the role out of the park in 1992, but the CGI that had been seen in trailers prior to the film’s release made the new Genie look more like a computer-generated blue nightmare. That being said, in the finished product Genie’s look felt natural and the humour and dazzle that Smith brought to the role provided some of the most entertaining parts of the entire film. Williams left big shoes to fill, and Smith’s performance felt more like an original take, paying its dues to its predecessor without trying to completely imitate the already iconic performance.
While Genie’s performance brought a bit of comedy to the film, I didn’t feel the same love for the film’s leads. While Mena Massoud’s Aladdin and Naomi Scott’s Jasmine worked well with support from the films broader cast, I found my self less invested in their own moments to themselves, both in their solo musical numbers and their overall chemistry. In a lot of places their performances felt too close to that of the animation – a level of heightened that didn’t quite fit the live action. They did both have their moments to steal the show, but overall, I wasn’t as entertained by their performances.
The same can be said for Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar, who was little more than a typical paper-thin Disney villain, and Navid Negahban’s Sultan, who had very little to add to the overall film. While these characters served a bit more of a purpose in the animation, seeing them in live action took away some of the defining characteristics that made their characters stand out in the original.
Some character’s that really stole the show aside from Genie was Aladdin’s kleptomaniac monkey companion Abu and the magic carpet. Despite both being mostly CGI’d companions, there were plenty of times where, combined with Aladdin and Genie, they proved to be the real stars of the show.
A fitting homage to 1992’s classic, Aladdin is at worst an entertaining family film with a few diamonds in the rough scattered through an otherwise fairly standard story. While fans of the animation might find themselves drawing comparisons, there’s certainly enough in the spectacle of 2019’s Aladdin to allow for an enjoyable movie-going experience for all audiences.
About the author
ABOUT THE WRITER: Harry Sabulis is a film, music, theatre and media crazed writer with a passion for all things artsy. A certified nerd and aspiring screenwriter, Harry loves storytelling in all of its forms. You can read some of his film reviews on his blog, Kill The Critic.