Disney remake lacks the magic I was wishing for (Aladdin review)

The second of four live action remakes from Disney this year, Aladdin tells the classic story of a pauper in love with a princess. Swapping stylish animation for over the top action, it doesn’t fall flat on its face, but on occasions it does come dangerously close.

It seems daft to explain the story seen as though, just as with ‘Beauty and The Beast’ (2017), the story is identical to the original. After Aladdin falls in love with Jasmine, he is determined to win her hand. With the help of a magical Genie, he’ll get three wishes to try his luck at love while also avoiding the clutches of the evil Jafar. Sounds very familiar doesn’t it, and that’s one of the key issues with film.

The performances are all perfectly fine, with Will Smith actually managing to do something fun with the part of the Genie. The main problem is that his singing voice is not as strong as his charismatic acting. His performance of Arabian Nights lacks the powerful ‘broadway’ singing it requires, but he does deliver the appropriate gusto for “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali”. Aladdin and Jasmine, played by Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, have enough chemistry to keep the film going, but again their performances rely more on them looking the part than actually being fantastically likeable.

The worst performance, however, is that of Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari. He may be a fantastic actor in other things, but in this part he is horribly miscast, and what began as one of Disney’s great villains becomes a flat and unexciting character. He doesn’t look or sound the part, and lacks the required evil needed for a villain of this magnitude.

The musical sequences are serviceable, but again feel very inferior to the originals. As should be learnt from Michael Bay’s filmography, spectacle doesn’t always equal excitement, and the CGI filled sequences often fail to grab the appropriate attention. A new song, “Speechless” has been written by The Greatest Showmans’ writers, and is a showstopper sung by Jasmine. When I say ‘showstopper’ I mean it, as the film action literally pauses as she walks through it for three minutes belting out a sub-par “Let It Go”, while all the characters slowly vanish one by one as if dusted by Thanos.

For me, the worst song was “A Whole New World” which made musical changes that I did not like at all. It lacked all the romance and beauty, instead relying on the song’s infamy to coast through. Mix in some robotic sounding singing and Greatest Showman-style epic drums and you have spoilt a truly iconic song.

The direction of the film is all over the place. Some of the film is very gracefully shot, some of it has VERY bad CGI (most of the Genie stuff looks patchy at best) and often Guy Richie uses his favourite weird sped-up camera effect which just doesn’t work for the visual style of the film. That said, it is colourful and bright, with some beautiful costume work.

Overall, it isn’t horrible, but it isn’t great. There were parts that did actually make me laugh and I did enjoy myself, but there were solid portions of the film that were boring, badly acted and poorly written and directed. If you want to watch Aladdin, do exactly what you should also do with Dumbo, The Jungle Book and Beauty and The Beast. Watch the original animated version!

5 stars 3

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