Aladdin

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Aladdin
"If I had a magic lamp and three wishes, after the whole ending war and famine stuff, I'd use one to wish that Disney think long and hard about these live-action remakes." | Photo: © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

If I had a magic lamp and three wishes, after the whole ending war and famine stuff, I'd use one to wish that Disney think long and hard about these live-action remakes.

They can work - Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella and Pete's Dragon are solid examples - but it depends on the material. The more fantastical elements there are, the trickier it seems to be because the more CGI is needed to recreate what was often previously achieved with animation. In this case, there's a lot to contend with - magic carpet rides, thieving monkeys, a tiger, a talking parrot and, of course, the genie. Animation - like musicals, which, of course, this also is - helps filmmakers to expand horizons, so that magic can become 'real' for characters. By stripping it back to humans on a set - albeit with a caveful of, not always brilliant, CGI - quite a lot of the energy and fun of the original is lost.

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For the most part, this version - written by director Guy Ritchie and John August - slavishly follows the plot of the original as street thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud) meets and falls for beautiful princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), gets hold of magic lamp and a Genie (Wills Smith, who transforms him into a prince, only for Aladdin to discover winning his true love isn't going to be quite so easy as he thought. It's creditable that the one thing they have tried to do is beef up Jasmine's role here, so that she is a feminist who firmly believes she can run the kingdom without a husband. But her the new song Speechless feels as though it's been added with a crowbar.

Ritchie, although a bit hit and miss, has shown an aptitude for pace and quirky editing in everything from Lock, Stock... through to his Sherlock Homes re-imagining, but he seems curiously out of his depth here, as though a lack of restrictions has somehow stemmed the flow of ideas. Where in previous films, over-cranked action or slo-mo was used with style, here you're not sure if you're meant to notice it in chase scenes or not.

Why they felt the need to expand on the original by more than half an hour is anyone's guess as it doesn't improve things noticeably and younger children (and quite a few adults) are likely to be bored in the 'slushy romance' bits. All credit to Will Smith, though, who takes the Genie and makes it his own - no easy task considering Robin Williams is revered for the original - and he gets some decent emotional moments to make-up a bit for the lack of cartoon flamboyance. Marwan Kenzari brings some menace as the bad guy, but his role feels diminished here, not least because the role of Iago the parrot is massively cut back. Massoud and Scott also give it their all in the lead roles but they can't inject energy that isn't in the direction.The extra material struggles to justify the additional 30-plus minutes of running time and younger children (and quite a few adults) are likely to be bored in the 'slushy romance' bits.

It's not awful but frankly I'd rather have a Whole New World than this sort of lacklustre imitation.

Reviewed on: 23 May 2019
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Live-action remake of the Disney animation about a thief who gets his hands on a magic lamp.

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