If I go into all the nostalgia this flick caused as I reflected to when the animated version was released (1992), I will bore you to tears… maybe even death! Therefore, I conclude, saving your sanity by not getting into it. (You’re welcome!)
It is pretty interesting to see how Disney’s morphing their animated classics into live actions, and although there are tweaks to all of them, they still carry somewhat of a Disneyesq “it factor.” (If that makes any sense.) This one is no different. ALADDIN (2019) is another adaptation of the studio’s animated classic, which follows the adventurous tale of a magic lamp, charming street dweller Aladdin (Mena Massoud), the courageous and self-determined Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), and the Genie (Will Smith) who may be the key to their future.
If you don’t know the story of ALADDIN by now (26 years later), then you’ve either been living in a cave somewhere in South America’s Patagonia, or simply never cared for it. Aladdin has been (and still is) one of the most popular titles and characters to come out of Disney’s power plant. With a Broadway show that’s also been running for a while, inevitably modern times would call for a film version. A film version that I believe will be interesting to see and hear how the general public reacts to.
Aside from shotty flying-carpet CGI and a so-so rendition of A Whole New World… ALADDIN (2019) is a pretty decent watch. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It has its moments of upgraded joy, drama, chuckles, dazzling costumes and adventures – and that’s all that matters. It’s also a bit of a cringe when Will Smith appears as the Genie, but he makes the role his own. With his personality, wisdom and humor… he lives up to it in a unique way (I guess). In no way was the film (or those involved) looking to “replace” what Robin Williams had done. Impossible. Smith kinda grows on you… An acquired taste (for lack of a better term). Much like all the rest, you can’t compare these live actions to their animated predecessors. You shouldn’t They’ll never be the same, but I’d be lair if I said ALADDIN (2019) is a bad one. It’s not. It still carries an allure that I’m sure will resonate with audiences all over the globe.
Unlike ALADDIN’s 1992 predominantly white (voice) cast, based on my production notes, one of the biggest challenges for Guy Ritchie, the studio and the film – but a huge opportunity as well – was the casting process. They wanted fresh faces in the roles of Aladdin and Jasmine, faces that represented the diversity of the Middle East and the greater region, and launched a huge casting call in 2016 to find them. Over the next year, they saw over 2,000 actors from London to Egypt to Abu Dhabi to India. Once done with the process, the film turned out to be the most diversely cast Disney film ever.
Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott are a solid duo who did a decent job. I won’t knock’em for it. They are entertaining and charming and appealing and a joy to watch, but I can’t say their chemistry was always on point. I would lose them at times. Not sure what it was… Their musical sets weren’t always powerful. They were just OK to watch. Frankly, I enjoyed watching them share dialog and do their acting thing than I did watching them sing. Dancing’s another thing. Those segments were fun and funny (to a degree). That said, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the job they put into the film. The end-result was watchable.
A half-hour longer than its predecessor, ALADDIN (2019) is a quickly paced, layered exposition of colorful characters and their personal dilemmas, especially Aladdin’s. The thing that’s so universal and endearing about the character is that he’s a good-hearted person who can’t help but look to others for validation. He chooses to become a prince, but still feels that he will never be good enough. Even though he has this amazing connection with Jasmine just by being himself, and even though we see him as funny and charismatic and capable of anything, what’s so relatable is that he just doesn’t realize it. And for the most part… that’s the heartbeat of the fllm as he goes along a road of uneven footing clashing with other characters who make him question himself even more.
Overall, ALADDIN (2019) isn’t perfect, but it’s not a disaster either. It deserves your piqued interest and attention. Like most live action Disney films, it’s always hard to detach the original. They always linger in your brain due what you’re used to, as well as differences in some of the narrative. However, it’s still a film that’ll once again touch older fans of the animated version and generate a whole new world (pardon the pun) and love from those who didn’t exist back in 1992. That said, bring on THE LION KING!
Grade: B / Genre: Adaptation, Musical, Comedy, Adventure / Rated: PG / Run Time: 2:08
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott
Directed by: Guy Ritchie