Getting to the release of Aladdin has not been an easy or smooth trip for Disney. Between poor opinions on the trailers and the controversial casting of Will Smith as the Genie, I think it’s safe to say Disney was hoping for a more positive public perception on Aladdin. Add on top of that, Guy Ritchie seems like an odd fit as the director of this project, and Disney is usually very confident when they know they have a good film. They will have early press screenings for their movies and lift the review embargo weeks before the release of their film to create some buzz. The only time they don’t do that, usually means the movie sucks. Aladdin didn’t have its review embargo lift until the day before the movie’s release, which in my opinion is a big red flag. Not a good vote of confidence by Disney. Going into Aladdin, I had no expectations for it and wasn’t all that excited for it. Now having seen the movie, I think it’s a lot of fun.
I’ll address this right from the start here. Will Smith is the best part of this movie. I actually never had a problem with his casting, in fact, I always thought he was an excellent pick for it. There are few roles that a character is so tied to its actor and even fewer in animation. The Genie is and forever will be Robin Williams. No question about that. I really liked Disney’s approach to this iconic role, now that Robin is no longer with us. Instead of casting someone who would just do a Robin Williams impersonation, they casted someone with a larger than life personality and someone who would put their own spin on it. Will Smith did that. It was never disrespectful to Robin’s Genie, but at the same time, it was very much his own. Whenever Will Smith wasn’t on screen, I felt the movie slow down quite a bit. Whenever he was on screen, he brought a lot of charm and charisma to the screen and instantly made the movie pop. I never doubted that he wouldn’t turn in a fun performance, and Will Smith didn’t disappoint.
The rest of the cast also do a very good job immersing you into this Arabian setting. Mena Massoud as Aladdin was overshadowed by Will Smith in the scene that they were in together. He was likable enough and did a fine job when it came to his singing moments and musical numbers. Naomi Scott really stood out to me in her musical numbers. She is an incredible singer, and it sounds terrific in the film. The actor who portrays Jafar, Marwan Kenzari, has been getting some criticism. Not necessarily his performance, but the direction the movie decides to take the character of Jafar. For me, I don’t really understand the criticism that much. I thoroughly enjoyed hating his evil take on a classic Disney villain.
Aladdin suffers from being too long. I could’ve done with 15-20 minutes of this movie being shaved down. The animated movie is a lean 90 minutes long, it was tight, to the point and did it without dragging on. This movie dragged in too many areas that I think could’ve been cut down easily to make this a tighter story. Speaking of the story, it really relies on the fact that you’ve seen the original. The movie pretty much jumps right into the scene where Jasmine is walking through the city in disguise and doesn’t give much setup for that moment.
There is one thing that I really noticed in this movie, and I’m finding that this might be a theme throughout most of Disney’s live-action remakes. When making a live-action remake of an animated film, it’s hard to bring over a lot of the spectacle of the animated film. In animation, you can essentially do whatever your mind can create. In a live-action setting, that’s not always the case. There are just things that get lost in translation. The animated film Aladdin is one of my favourites, and it’s because it has so much wonder and awe to it. The live-action movie just isn’t able to capture that magic the animated one has. In the animated film the world looks so much bigger and grander, and from the trailers of this live-action movie the costumes and sets just look like the Walmart versions. Now, in the context of the film and not only a few clips from a trailer, the costumes and sets work within the movie and don’t really feel that way, but it still doesn’t have the wonder that an animated film was able to capture.
Aladdin is not a fantastic movie or even a great one, but it is an entertaining one with fun musical numbers and larger than life Will Smith performance. I think there are enough positive things in this movie that I would say I had fun with it. If you love the original and are wanting to see this movie, I think it’s important to remember that this movie won’t be exactly like the animated movie. They take different liberties with characters like the Genie and Jafar and with the story. Just understand this isn’t the animated movie, enjoy it for what it is. And if you don’t like, well, we’ll always have the animated one.