The new live action “Aladdin” has just enough magic to make it fun.
Guy Ritchie, usually known for his British gangster movies, has branched out with a movie unlike any of his others. With “Aladdin”, a live action remake of the animated Disney film of 1992, Ritchie has directed not only his first musical, but his first Disney film. He also co-wrote the screenplay with John August.
“Aladdin”, at least the Disney version, is about a street urchin who is conned by the King’s evil Grand Vizier into retrieving a lamp from a cave. Not realizing exactly what he has gotten himself into, Aladdin escapes the cave with the lamp and some new friends only to land himself in the palace once again face to face with the Grand Vizier vying for the lamp and the safety of Princess Jasmine.
For his first time in a musical genre, Ritchie has done an adequate job, but with some weak and missing elements, it seems as though, perhaps, he was happier to play it safe, rather than risk totally blowing the film. What is well done in the film, turns out to be just what Ritchie is good at: a good guy playing a con to bring the bad guys down.
The new “Aladdin” story has been updated to reflect the times,
including the addition of a second female character with an important role. Also, there is a heavy nod to the Me Too movement. 1992, Princess Jasmine, just wanted to experience the world outside the palace in the company of Aladdin. 2019, Princess Jasmine, wants Aladdin in her life, but her personal goal, aside from her love life, is for her father to recognize her as a force perfectly capable of running her country. Some other changes include giving the Genie his own story, bringing him more to the forefront than in the previous version. Iago, the parrot, is more evil and more of a silent partner to his master.
While the acting is fine, it is on the weaker side in that it is lopsided. Mena Moussoud, as Aladdin, and Naomi Scott, as Princess Jasmine, do a credible job, but their performances are missing a truly heartfelt sense of chemistry. On the other hand, Will Smith, as the Genie, is good fun. He is full of energy and really plays the role for all it is worth, helping to keep the film engaging.
One much loved carryover from the animated film is the score, although with the passage of time it too needed a makeover. Alan Mencken, who wrote the original score, and Howard Ashman, rewrote some of the lyrics to be more 21st century appropriate. Some songs were expanded, and new ones added. Speechless is one of the additions and helps to add dimension to Jasmine’s character.
Visually, “Aladdin” is a good watch. The lavish computer rendition of Agraba is wonderful and, for the alert viewer, there are a number of very subtle references to Disney symbols and other films throughout.
All in all, I found this remake an enjoyable watch despite its flaws. “Aladdin” is a relatively smooth 2 hours and 8 minutes in length and is rated PG for some action and peril. The PG rating is a good one. I would exercise caution in taking younger, more sensitive kids, as one scene may well be too scary.