Shining, shimmering… but not so splendid. Aladdin’s first 30 minutes almost condemn it as the worst Disney live action remake (and there’s plenty of competition!). Terrible pace and a garbled storyline make it nearly incomprehensible for anyone who hasn’t seen the original. Equally, the exposition in the screenplay as everyone’s motives are SPELLED OUT is painful.
But – remarkably, considering the trailers – the Genie’s arrival brings pizzaz and rhythm. Will Smith is very good; high praise considering the long shadow cast by Robin Williams. Smith particularly shines when allowed to stray from original lines. His Genie is more cocky, cool and prickly. The only downside is a lack of vocal fullness during songs, other than ‘Prince Ali’.
Aladdin then takes time to develop relationships between Jasmine, Aladdin and Genie (as well as a flimsy Genie/Dalia love arc) with additional scenes. The new bits are the best bits, offering something other than a shallow rehash of the animation.
Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Jasmine (Naomi Scott) are well cast as perky, PG Disney leads. Massoud has the teeth, dimples and fresh moves necessary. Jasmine’s adjustment from spoilt princess to feminist is welcome – if a little sycophantic. Her new ballad ‘Speechless’ showcases her masterful voice, but its contemporary vibe sits awkwardly within Aladdin’s score. The music stutters in comparison to 1992’s brilliance: some boldness is attempted (hip hop, rap, Bollywood vibes) to avoid comparison – but not enough. Ritchie also struggles with directing dance numbers, clearly being far more comfortable with fun chase sequences.
Disney’s quest to reinvent the wheel with its remakes remains frustrating, especially as the best bits come from new sparks of inspiration. After almost completely failing to take off, Aladdin finally freewheels when it looses itself from the shackles of its origins. And Magic Carpet is a very good boy.
CAST: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen
DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie
WRITERS: John August, Guy Ritchie
SYNOPSIS: A kindhearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true in Disney’s live action remake of the 1992 animation.