Top critical review
Is this Aladdin genius or a remake too Jafar?
22 May 2019
Next up on the conveyer belt of Disney’s live-action remakes is 1992’s Aladdin, best known for Robin Williams’s iconic voice performance as the Genie of the lamp and Alan Menken’s double Oscar winning score.
Menken returns with some brand-new compositions, including an absolute belter in Speechless, and donning the blue mystical make-up this time and putting his own hip-hop spin on proceedings is Will Smith.
The story stays faithful to the original with street rat Aladdin (Massoud) falling in love with Jasmine (Scott), but not realising she’s a Princess. He’s duped by the evil sorcerer Jafar (Kenzari) into finding a mystical lamp that will provide him with the power to take over the Kingdom. Aladdin unwittingly releases the genie of the lamp and is gifted three wishes by him as he attempts to win Jasmine’s heart.
Whilst not an obvious choice of director for such a film, Guy Ritchie creates a spectacular and colourful world starting with an ambitious tracking shot and musical number. Leaving behind his trademark Ritchieisms the film is, perhaps surprisingly, in safe hands with snatches of the original’s more sinister elements firmly in place.
Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott are both extremely charming and likeable with electric chemistry. Their youthful enthusiasm keeps the pace from dropping although the 128-minute run time could’ve been reduced by 20 minutes.
The songs are loud and proud with exuberant choreography creating some show-stopping set-pieces and the big numbers such as Friend Like Me and A Whole New World work well, but the main problem is Smith. As the genie, he just doesn’t quite work. You can’t fault his commitment, but he’s destined to remain in the shadow of Robin Williams. Some highly questionable CGI doesn’t help his cause however, an added subplot of a romance between him and Jasmine’s maid (an excellent Nasim Pedrad) puts him in human form and here his natural charm, wit and style shine through. So much so, it’s disappointing when he goes back to feeling blue.
Elsewhere, Marwan Kenzari as Jafar isn’t quite as menacing as he should be in what feels like a missed opportunity. Fun comes in the form of CGI creations Abu the monkey, the magic carpet and Iago the parrot and all three do what they’re supposed to do.
A valiant effort, but not as entertaining as the original, this version will undoubtedly open a whole new world to lots of people. Children will probably love it whilst those of us old enough to remember the magic that was unleashed from the lamp back in 1992 might prefer to blow the dust off the dvd.