Aladdin, classic Disney boy meets girl story. Guy Richie, known for his crime/action films. Not even a Hollywood witch doctor could have come up with that combination. Disney’s new money-making scheme of live action adaptations is often seen as a win-win situation. They make the money; we melt into the nostalgia like a morphine addiction. But this win-win can flip into a double-edged sword very quickly as we had seen with some of the negativity that was aimed at the film. So which outcome did Aladdin achieve? Well, a bit of both really.
The first rule of a remake is to complement the original, like a nice pairing of ingredients on a dish and there are certain areas where Aladdin adds to the enchantment of an already enchanting story by updating elements that don’t trample on or intrude on what came before. The first of these updates is the desert kingdom of Agrabah which has become a lot more colorful and cultured. Everything from The Sultan’s Palace to the back alleys of the marketplace feels intimate, which not only allows for some interesting camerawork but makes the location more welcoming for the audience to accept as a reallocation. It’s almost as though the amount of vibrant colours in the frame is directly linked to the visual appeal.
The characters share more or less the same traits as they do with the original. However, the character of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) is given a personality makeover. Her character has evolved into someone who is tired of being silenced and not having a voice which is explored into greater length. Having her play a more functional role in the story is a welcoming change which also paves the way for Naomi Scott to experiment with her traits in her performance, which seems to pay off.
The music, one of the pillar that lifts Aladdin into classic territory, still exudes upbeat positivity, you can feel the “Disney Magic” coming off the screen. The Prince Ali sequence is more energetic and louder with a carnival-style to it, a great example of how the vibrant colours benefit the film. But it’s not just the classics, new songs are implemented with conviction and purpose, Princess Jasmine is given her own song “Speechless”, which reflects her characters desires to not stay quiet. It’s quite the empowering ballad.
I want to present what I didn’t like about the film in true Aladdin style as three wishes so here we go. Firstly, I wish that Will Smith as the Genie was more of a show stealer. You have possibly one of the most popular charismatic actors working in this industry in a notably show-stealing role, this should be a recipe for maximum satisfaction. Will Smith doesn’t even need to try to be charismatic, he just naturally is, but charisma does not equal comedic value. It’s hard not to compare Will Smith’s genie to Robin Williams’ rendition but there is one thing that Will Smith’s genie is lacking that Robin Williams had, pace. Robin could zip in and out of impressions at the snap of a finger, which provided the bulk of the energy in the original animation. Will Smith’s genie is more solidified restricting his ability to stand out.
My second wish is that I wish that Aladdin had more awareness of the musical genre. Make no mistake the songs are good and nostalgic, but it tries too hard to be nostalgic, to bring back the feeling of the original animation. Furthermore, the breakout into song scenes is either too predictable placed or too late. Take Princess Jasmine’s “Speechless” for instance, when you listen to the lyrics and sound, it feels like this would have been a good foundation to set the scene for her characters wants and needs, instead of following the familiar trail of dialogue. I would have liked to see a little more reconsideration into the functionality of a musical would have done Aladdin a world of good
Now, for my final wish, and this being the most important, I wish that Aladdin was a little more special. The film is very loud and vocal so it should resonate with audiences in its boisterous attitude. However, I think the interest has been heavily affected by the whole outlook towards these Disney live action adaptations. Their necessity is not in the public interest, it’s in the company interest, anything to make themselves look good at shareholder meetings. You may call it starting out on the back foot.
All in all, there isn’t too much impressive about this Aladdin that you couldn’t say about the original animation. Sure seeing these locations come to life in a visually impressive way, but just because something looks visually stunning does not mean that a film is immediately good. The performances, say for Naomi Scott, are either underperformed or too over the top and it felt so prolonged that you even get tired of the spectacle. A very disappointing move on Disney’s part and with more and more animations greenlit for live action adaptations, something or someone must put the brakes on and takes some sort of quality control.