by Edward Baillargeon
One of the best eras in Disney Animation’s history, besides their resurgence in the current decade, it would easily have to be the Disney Renaissance. And one of my personal favorites is the 1992 classic Aladdin. Directed by Disney legends John Musker & Ron Clements, Aladdin has everything I want out of a Disney classic, from its top-notch animation and unforgettably fun songs, all brought together by an irreplaceable performance from the late great Robin Williams as the Genie. Aladdin has became one of the defining films of the Disney Renaissance next to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid as some of the best animated films ever made, but people seem to love The Lion King more for reasons I will never get. But back on to Aladdin, I was admittedly a little nervous when it was announced to be next in line for the live-action remake treatment, as the trend is starting to get a little more tired. And the fact that they decided on Guy Ritchie, the director of the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., was a bit of a weird choice to direct an Aladdin remake. But even with all of the debatable buildup, it actually turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
When a street urchin named Aladdin finds a lamp with a genie inside, he uses the lamp to turn himself into a prince in order to win the heart of the beautiful Princess Jasmine. But an evil vizier named Jafar is after the lamp too.
The 2019 remake of Aladdin turns out to be an enjoyable pleasant surprise. Definitely not as good as the original animated film, but still a good film on its own. The story for the most part stays faithful to the original, but adds some new material that makes sense in the story and updates the story for modern times. However, some parts of the script, written by Ritchie and Big Fish screenwriter John August, do drag out a few scenes a little bit, but it picks back up quickly. The production design is excellent capturing the look and feel of the middle east in a live action interpretation of Agrabah. For the most part, the actors do a solid job with their roles and have several standouts. Mena Massoud looks and acts the part of the street rat Aladdin, but he is a little held back by some of the film’s directing choices. Naomi Scott does an excellent job in the role of Princess Jasmine by giving her even more of an arc than she even did in the original and having a beautiful singing voice. And of course, Will Smith, while he is no Robin Williams, does a great performance as this interpretation of the Genie, as he at times pays homage to Williams, but manages to make the character his own. He even gets a great romantic subplot with another standout comic relief with a new character being Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia, played by Nasim Pedrad. The musical numbers are also really fun as they take some new interpretations to the classic songs by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and Howard Ashman. New performances of “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali”, and of course “A Whole New World” are real standouts. And it’s not just those classic songs that are in the film so it’s not a complete copy-paste of the original, there are a few new additions to the soundtrack by La La Land and The Greatest Showman lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul with Will Smith’s extended performance of “Arabian Nights” and Jasmine’s new power ballad “Speechless”.
However, even with a lot of great things, there are several things that do hold this remake back from being as great as the original. First, Marwan Kenzari is horribly miscast as the main villain Jafar. Mostly because of the fact that he’s a little too sexy for the character and because he looks around the same age as Aladdin when he really should be much older. And also, some of the cast doesn’t quite have as much chemistry between each other, especially with Will Smith. Besides the Men in Black trilogy, I can’t really name any other film where he has great chemistry with another actor in the film because he functions greatly as a one-man show. And there is at one crucial point in the film where the editing decides to have a random slow motion moment that is so out of place and hilariously bad they I just could not stop laughing at it. While the visual effects do look decent for the most part, there are a couple of times where it is pretty wonky, particularly when we see Will Smith Genie when he is blue and not when he is a human, but I adjusted to it just fine.
Overall, the 2019 remake of Aladdin is a solidly entertaining fantasy musical. While it may not be as great as the original due to a few wonky points in the script, editing, and visual effects, it is a fun time with some great songs old and new, solid performances, and just enough visual pizzaz. My recommendation for this depends on how you feel about Disney’s live-action remakes. If you are okay with them and seeing a new take on a movie that you enjoy, then you will have a fun time and check this one out. But if you want to avoid their remakes like the plague and wish to see them die, then it would be best for you to skip it or at best rent it. And for those people, you can just stay at home and watch the original. I’m going to give Aladdin a 7/10.