The not-so Fresh Prince of Blu-Air.
While on the trend of adapting Disney’s animated classics to live action revamps, it was only a matter of time before the 1992 animated masterpiece Aladdin received the same treatment. As it seems to be perfect for a modern retelling, being an adventure of fantastical proportions… A Far away kingdom, with musical magic, genuine romance, menacing villains, high stakes sword play and a jaw-droppingly funny sidekick. The story of a young street thief in the desert land of Agrabah who finds a magic lamp concealing a fast-talking genie granting three wishes. All while out manoeuvring a malevolent villain and falling for a reclusive princess. Guy Richie’s live action take on the tale follows the same story with the result being monumentally less magical.
After witnessing this woeful Aladdin (2019) the only wish one would make, would be to unsee this film. While Disney’s last live action Dumbo (2019) left a lot to be desired, this film reaches new depths of cringing eyeroll. To say the film was a badly put together, poorly acted, tedious effort to get through… is to put it mildly. Audiences will not be as harsh as they indeed should be, as many will try in vain to find the “diamond in the rough”. But sadly the film is far more rough, than diamond. Disney is meticulous with its property; therefore one would think they would have been stricter with one of their most prideful jewels. The product is a film that is so clearly banking on audience nostalgia and transparently being a mindless cash-grab for the studio.
The filmmaking is pedestrian at best. Guy Richie wasn’t the right choice, his style felt out of place and borderline lazy. From the first moments of a tracking shot through the city stitched together with clunky CGI, its highlighted that this isn’t the adventure it pretends to be. It should be addressed that one of the worse aspects of this film is Jafar. The films antagonist is pointless, poorly written and even more dreadfully acted by Marwan Kenzari. What was one of Disney’s best villains, is now its worst. Mena Massoud as Aladdin serves his purpose but lacks the boyish likeability of his cartoon counterpart. Naomi Scott gives the only notable performance. Her Jasmine is charismatic and beautiful albeit bland. While the effort to give Jasmine some story with the added song Speechless is appreciated, it’s out of place and terribly jarring.
One of the major talking points will undoubtedly be Will Smith’s Genie and thankfully for the most part Smith actually employees his unique watchability. Stepping into the shoes of the late and truly great Robin Williams is no easy feat, but Smith tries his hardest and is rewarded with a few slightly amusing moments. However, when he is in his blue genie form the CGI is uncomfortable and offbeat, that paired with his songs that drone with a hollow heart and missing charm… don’t make for great viewing. One can’t help but feel a little less of his character would have been more.
The “large” musical numbers look like they have been shot with 10 people and tried in vain to make for a grand spectacle. When a song arises, it appears forced and abrupt. Richie should have either scrapped the musical numbers altogether or truly gone for it and made it a melodic extravaganza. All of its best moments are lifted directly from the animated film… which is why this is so unfortunate, instead of building on this tale, it very nearly tatters it.
One realises that this reads a resoundingly negative review. The way we participate with film nowadays consists of three things; how we engage before we see the film, during the actual viewing and our feelings, thoughts and views subsequently after. Looking at these three components, Aladdin was unquestionably bad. The trailers, marketing and publicity images were boring and artificial. Watching the film wasn’t enjoyable and the feelings after were not of joy… but of confusion and disappointment. Film can take an audience away on an adventure, it’s not supposed to treat its audience like children. There is a difference between making a film for an audience WITH children and making a film treating your audience like they ARE children. And frankly, the kids deserve better.
We should hold films like this and studios responsible for their missteps, and not forgive simply because of the source material. My second and third wish, would be the hope that Disney doesn’t butcher The Lion King the same way.
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