Is Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin a wish come true or is it an idea up in smoke?
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar and Navid Negahban
DIRECTOR(S): Guy Ritchie
THE BACK STORY: A live-action remake of the beloved 1992 animation feature film, Aladdin stars Mena Massoud in the title role of as a common street thief who falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the daughter of the Sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban). Jasmine, a woman with a heart of gold who greatly cares for the common people of the city, has to marry a prince – which of course makes Aladdin ineligible to win the heart of the lady he inadvertently meets in streets.
What he doesn’t anticipate, however, is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). The power hungry head consultant to the Sultan, Jafar convinces Aladdin to unwittingly help him out in a nefarious plot that will help him rise to power. But his plan doesn’t go as well, planned, leaving Aladdin in possession of a lamp that, once rubbed, unleashes a powerful Genie (Will Smith) that grants him three wishes that will forever change his life.
But, as Aladdin is soon to find out, the old expression “Be careful what you wish for” is about to ring truer to him than it ever has before …
THE REVIEW: “The Fresh Prince of Agrabah …”
It’s rare that you can sum up a movie in one sentence, but if you were looking to tell a friend what to make of the 2019 live action version of Aladdin – a made-for-TV quality movie which is essentially ALL about Will Smithsave for the last 20 minutes – the previous one would be it. For Aladdin lacks any of the spirit of the animated original for the first of its 2 hours and change run time, feeling more like a watered down (from special effects to performances) money grab than attempt at making something substantial.
Smith fans will love or, depending on if they will find themselves saddened he and Nasim Pedrad – who is very entertaining as Princess Jasmine’s no. 1 handmaiden – are the only things fairly entertaining about the film, loathe – Aladdin as all of his natural charms come shining through. Well, they shine as much as they can in a film where the lead actor feels a bit, there’s no nice way to say it, presented in a fashion to make him acceptable to ALL audiences (the whitewashing controversy surrounding Scott was covered last year by media outlets). Then again, the entire production feels like some executive’s whole pitch was “Bigger! Louder! Will Smith!” and when someone said “What about gripping, nuanced performances with eye-popping visuals?” they were met with a stronger “WILL SMITH!” retort. Smith is the best and worst thing about the movie as you’ll either find him the most engaging thing about it or the most irritating when he becomes bigger than everything – literally and figuratively – around him.
Sadly, the live-action version of Aladdin just doesn’t feel special at all unless you are a die-hard Will Smith fan because the aforementioned effects which only seem to be saved for Smith’s musical numbers, the charisma (which is reserved for Smith and Pedrad) or how Kenzari’s turn as Jafar is as threatening as Massoud’s is underwhelming. Putting Smith in a cast with so many underwhelming performers almost turns the film into a live-action Shrek … With WAY too much focus on Donkey. Be it Massoud’s perfectly coiffed hair and Scott’s “I have a heart of gold; can’t anyone see how much I love everyone?!” routine, Aladdin just feels to be too much of too little to make you buy in as much as you need to enjoy it in full.
The animated version of a movie shouldn’t seem to have more heart and pep than the live-action version, but this – like last year’s “Let’s make another Grinch movie because …. Well … We can!” just feels unnecessary, loud, a bit boorish and save for three musical numbers, overdone to the point of it turning into a meal at Buca Di Beppo that’s intended to serve 3-4 …. But ends up being devoured by one. It’s still filling … But when it causes a stomach ache later, you might be inclined to think if you really needed to stuff yourself with it for the sake of having it available. You can tell everyone tried really hard to make a movie, but you can tell that they are trying – and that makes the ride on this carpet feel far less magical than director Guy Ritchie and company surely hoped it would be.
And that’s a shame – because Aladdin is likely to make you think where is poor Uncle Phil when you need him more than anything else.