Today I’m gonna be talking about the 2019 Disney musical fantasy film: Aladdin. It stars Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, and Marwan Kenzari and was directed by Guy Ritchie. Aladdin is the newest Disney live-action remake and is a retelling of the 1992 animated tale of the same name, which itself, was a retelling of an Arabic folktale. Aladdin tells the story of its titular character, a young street urchin, played by Mena Massoud. After falling for Princess Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott, Aladdin meets a Genie, Will Smith, who can grant him three wishes during his quest to win Jasmine’s affection and stop the evil Jafar.
Aladdin is the latest film in the line of Disney live-action remakes and, once again, they’ve remade a film I’ve never been a huge fan of. The original Aladdin is a movie I’ve always enjoyed, but its strange tone and generic romance always prevented it from being top-tier Disney for me. And so I’m not sure if that helps or hurts me when it comes to the remake. On one hand, I don’t have an overly strong nostalgic connection to it, so I can’t be upset about minor changes.
But on the other hand, the story was never all that captivating to me the first time, so why would more of the same be any different? Well, my feelings about it aren’t all that different, but the story itself does feature a few changes. It doesn’t go crazy with the alterations, but this definitely isn’t a shot-for-shot remake. For one thing, the animated movie was a compact 90 minutes. This live-action retelling stretches the story out to exceed two hours. Some of that extra bulk is worthwhile; there’s an entirely new song sung by Jasmine, which is pretty decent actually, and there are a little more character development and nuance again, with Jasmine. Unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t account for the 38 minutes of extra runtime.
I did like the nod to Lawrence of Arabia with the mirror in the desert, though. I think the musical sequences were adapted as well as they could’ve been, but I just wasn’t a fan of their hyper-stylization. Slow-motion or sped-up visuals just don’t pair with normal speed singing. Visually, these sequences are very colorful and robust, but the CGI and artificiality of it all kept me from ever being engrossed. But, that might just be me cause there was a guy in my theater who was so excited that he loudly wooed twice during A Whole New World. Speaking of CGI, we’ve gotta talk about the Genie.
I know that character, in particular, was the major source of trepidation for many people, especially after that first trailer was released, but let me tell you, he is far from being the worst part of this movie. Will Smith does a fine job and the CGI is perfectly fine too. The comparisons with Robin Williams’ Genie are inevitable, but not really fair. Will Smith never tries to imitate or even emulate him. Just like Robin Williams’ Genie embodied his comedic style with the impressions and improv, Will Smith brings his own unique comedic flair to the character.
I still prefer Robin Williams, but I found Will Smith to be a very enjoyable part of this movie. The rest of the characters were really a mixed bag. And, I think characters are one of the most challenging aspects to translate from animation to live-action. In a cartoon, characters can be silly or over-the-top. They can be caricatures. But, if you were to give those same personality traits to a live-action character, it would come across as really cheesy and fake. Take the Sultan for example. In the original Aladdin, he was this little goofy, gullible, happy-go-lucky character. He was very well-meaning, but not a great leader.
If they had taken those elements of the character and translated them to live-action, it would’ve seemed ridiculous. So, here we have a normal-sized guy who’s a competent leader but he’s so incredibly bland. By making the characters more realistic and less cartoony, they take away most of their personality. The main characters survive this: Genie, Aladdin (mostly), and Jasmine all still have elements of what made them good characters in the original. And even though they’re entirely CGI, you could throw Carpet and Raja into that category too.
I wish I could say I liked Abu here since he was one of my favorites in the original, but he just reminded me of the monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean here. By far the worst character, however, is Jafar. I was nervous about him based on the trailers and he’s exactly the same way in the movie itself. This was just a bad casting move. His look, his voice, his dialogue, his costume, his mannerisms nothing about him was remotely menacing. Jafar from the original movie was one of the most sinister Disney villains.
In the original, she was a fairly strong princess character. She disagreed with the marriage law and wanted to break free from the entrapment she felt in her life. In this version of the story, we still get those same things, but some extra time spent on the development of her character reveals a few specific aspirations that I think were excellent and fitting additions to her character.
Speaking of additions, we’ve got a brand new character, Dalia. She’s Jasmine’s handmaiden, but she more than just a servant; she’s really a friend to Jasmine, which I think was a great addition cause it gives her somebody to talk to besides just Raja. Also, Dalia is an extremely funny character. It’s more subtle than some of the other humor in the movie, but she’s got some great interactions with the Genie and has a lot of interjected one-liners that were really entertaining. Spoons yam jams! The Aladdin remake is a tough one for me to judge.
I appreciate the toned-down slapstick physical comedy and I actually really liked the two major changes made to the very end of the film, but the remake also introduced a number of negative changes as well. I’m not somebody who’s inherently anti-remake, but I’ve gotta say most of these Disney live-action remakes have felt like perfect examples of ìunnecessaryî remakes. That’s not to say I hate them or that I’m vehemently against their existence. I still watch them and I still get some entertainment value out of them, but in the end, I’d rather just put on the original animated movie. Aladdin no different. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is Jasmine.
I always enjoyed her character in the original, but this version adds some depth and really fleshes her out. I was a little concerned at first cause there’s a moment during her first sequence that seemed like a backstep for her character, but overall she was a much more well-rounded character with strength and ambitions that unchained her from the damsel in distress trope she was tied to in the original movie. The addition of Dalia as her handmaiden and confidante was another welcome alteration that only further developed her as a full-fledged character. Pro number two was a toned-down comedy.
The slapstick physical comedy was one of my biggest problems with the original animated film cause it introduced a weird tonal inconsistency and made things too cartoony for me. The filmmakers thankfully recognized that those elements wouldn’t make the jump to live-action very well, so the comedy is almost exclusively reliant on dialogue and situational humor here.
The Sultan is no longer a goofy buffoon and Iago isn’t the incessantly mouthy wisecracker that he was in the original. As far as the cons go, the biggest issue is Jafar. They take a character who was so menacingly evil in the original and strip away all of the threat. He doesn’t have the right look or sound, but his actions are also way less threatening.
They do away with most of his creepiness towards Jasmine, which wasn’t a bad change, but he’s basically reduced to being a misogynistic jerk. They also gave him this trait that kept making me unintentionally laugh. He’s extremely obsessed with power, and there are several times in the movie where somebody says that he’s second only to the Sultan, or the Genie, or whoever. And Jafar will whip around and be like Second? And it just made me laugh every time cause it made me think of Marty McFly from Back to the Future when somebody would say ìWhat are you, chicken? and he’d stop and be like ìChicken?! Nobody calls me chicken. It was that same type of silly verbal trigger.
The second con was the stylization, specifically during the musical numbers. The performances were actually really good, especially Naomi Scott, but I just couldn’t get over how artificial-looking it all was. Again, it comes back to the difficulty of taking animation and converting it to live-action, but the over-stylized look just pulled me out of the story each time. I can’t say the CGI was poor and I can’t say it looked bad it just wasn’t for me. I’m gonna give Aladdin 3 out of 5 paws. It’s not as good as the animated original and largely felt like an unnecessary rehash of the same story, but a few of the minor changes did improve upon the original and it was a largely pleasant experience. I would recommend Aladdin to fans of the original, but especially if you’ve liked Disney live-action remakes up to this point.
I don’t think this movie changes anything too major. That would cause big fans of the original to be super upset, but I think this one will fair better for you if you already have an inclination for this live-action style. If you liked Aladdin, I’ve gotta obviously recommend the original animated movie. If you haven’t already seen it. The story’s pretty much the same, but it does take a much more comedic approach to the tale. I also have to recommend The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement because its princess plot very much mirrors Jasmine’s story. Obviously, check out the first Princess Diaries too if you haven’t seen it, so you can understand the second one. Plus it’s a good movie anyway. If the musical sequences in this movie were a highlight for you, I’d recommend The Greatest Showman.
I wasn’t personally a fan of the movie, but the visual style of the musical numbers is very similar. Alright, a couple of questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen the live-action Aladdin remake? If so, what’d you think of it? Let me know how you feel about the original movie too. And number two: What’s your favorite movie based on a folktale? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going. Alright, so if you got some enjoyment, insight, or information out of this review, I’d appreciate