Although it seemed Disney’s live-action remakes were fail-proof; in late March the impossible happened. The live-action remake of Dumbo not only had some terrible reviews (and is a film I have yet to watch) but was also the Mouse’s first flop (if you can call it that) of 2019. Sure, many factors contributed to audiences decisions to not go out to the theatre and watch Dumbo but after the dust settled with Dumbo; everyone looked to the next big test: Aladdin. Disney had three live-action remakes to be released in 2019; Aladdin was next-up. Funnily enough; Will Smith was originally pencilled in for Dumbo but passed it up for Aladdin. After seeing the trailers and the promotional campaign – I along many others thought Aladdin (and the Genie) looked terrible – and Will Smith faced most the criticism. Upon the second trailer, my opinion changed and I said at the time that the only saving grace of the film would be Will Smith, but I still wasn’t sure about anyone else. In short, this remake was a good film that I enjoyed, it has some big issues; for example I would say the film never felt clean and Guy Ritchie was a bad choice but the changes the film made were enjoyable, and I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked it.
I will spare you the synopsis of this remake, because it is just that; a remake – which the original (I presume), you like I have watched a million times. And in a weird way; the complete lack of trust I had for this film heavily impacted the way I feel about it now. Once critics saw the film, the reception wasn’t great, so I had even less faith in it. But, boy – did I like Aladdin, a lot of the hate the film is getting is because it is being compared to the original, you need to view this film in its own vacuum. And, yes – it has its problems; the film never felt clean (I’ll explain that later), it has some weak characters and Guy Ritchie is completely the wrong man for the job but somehow; the changes in the story and the characters that do work – work, and all of that managed to pull this film off and make it enjoyable.
Plus; there are many aspects to the film that I never knew how to feel about because I never expected it, like Will Smith ad-libing unnecessarily had me really confused, I should hate it but I kinda like it. And again, the changes made to Iago, I should hate it but I didn’t. There were so many factors that I thought would annoy me; that just didn’t: like the terrible CGI at times.
Like I said at the start, this remake isn’t as good as the original but it is a good film nevertheless, it has some issues but is enjoyable. Maybe that is because of how I felt going into the movie and what I was hearing about it which gave me sub-par expectations or because I had this horrible feeling it would ruin the original animated film’s legacy by being the exact same thing but just worst in every aspect. Luckily, they made changes and if I was being perfectly honest; I don’t think I have ever been captivated and caught so off-guard than by the introduction to the film. Will Smith singing Arabian Nights? Perfect, I loved the very first scenes of the movie and that just set the groundwork for everything else to build off. Plus, comparing it to other Disney remakes, it’s one of the better ones, I wasn’t a fan of Beauty and the Beast, and I liked how Aladdin made some necessary changes to the film. Giving Jasmine something to do, giving the Genie a love interest and having a narration via him I think was great. And like I said at the beginning, I think it all matters on your outlook on the film. If you’re comparing it the animated classic – why? It is almost a given that it won’t be as good as that, so just enjoy it for what it was.
I may be talking about how much I enjoyed the film but some parts of the film were just terrible. The biggest and main problem of the film was Guy Ritchie, I said it in my trailer reaction and I stand by that. I remember watching the chase seen with Aladdin and Jasmine at the start and seeing how it had been unnecessarily sped up throughout the entire segment. It was so clear to me and it just felt so out of place, and that is what I mean by the film not feeling clean. At times, the CGI is perfect, other times, it is almost as if they had just painted Will Smith blue, shined his head and pulled his eyebrows back, the CGI was either great or really bad there was no in between. Also (this is more of a nitpick) I would have liked more time with just Aladdin and the Genie in his Genie form. As I will explain in my next point, in my trailer reaction, I had a feeling the main trio of characters were poorly cast; turns out I was wrong, but not completely – because Jafar was terrible. This isn’t only because he was nothing resembling the Jafar I knew and was terrible at delivering his lines to make his character seem evil, but also because he was hardly given any character development past the cringe lines like “I don’t want to be second”. However, that being said, I do understand that it is a Disney film and it expected that there will be some trade-offs with story-telling and character development. But Jafar was horribly miscast, even him in Genie form never felt good enough, I never felt as though he was menacing or that he even had any real power – unlike when I watched him as a child.
But, onto what I liked. And first up; I really liked the changes to the story that were made, giving the Genie a love interest – Nasim Pedrad, who was great – on paper seemed a terrible idea but it worked perfectly and went hand-in-hand with the version Will Smith played. And like so much of the film; I don’t know why, but it just worked. I already spoke about my presumptions coming into the film, and I thought Aladdin and Jasmine were both miscast – but this was far from it. Naomi Scott plays Jasmine amazingly and actually gives her something to do (which is what I think the trailers should have shown) and Mena Massoud played a convincing Aladdin – with only his singing letting him down, his solo early on in the film just felt so off the mark in terms of impact and emotion especially when you compare it to Naomi Scott’s solo later on in the film. But, I thought Aladdin would be terrible because he was too clean-cut and I never believed he could pull of a thief or a street-rat and they proved me wrong. The chemistry between the two leads was flying out the screen (see what I did there). The trio were perfect, the chemistry between Will Smith’s Genie and Mena Massoud’s Aladdin led to one of the funniest scenes in the film – a scene (may I add) not even in the original. Princess Jasmine is given her own arc in the film and she plays it well, her solo was amazing – I wish we would’ve got a little more dialogue between her and the Genie. Whenever, they add a new song to these classics I worry, but “Speechless” fit in perfectly and went hand-in-hand with the story Jasmine had. I was just happy they gave her something to do; something I thought wouldn’t happen going off the trailers. But the real stand-out star of the film was Hakim – poor Hakim.
Aladdin was an enjoyable film that was made better due to my expectations, and I would definitely watch it again. A couple of things are interesting, first; to see if a sequel is green-lit – because arguably out of all the remakes this is the easiest to continue. And secondly, if the promotional campaign was actually a failure or if they succeeded at exactly what they wanted to do