Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: John August & Guy Ritchie
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott
Disney classic Aladdin is one of my favourite Disney films, so learning of a live action remake was both exciting and worrying to me. On the one hand I love the source material so I was excited to get more of it, on the other hand I was also worried that it wouldn’t live up to the original and may even damage it to some degree.
So, which did I think it was going to be? Well, Guy Ritchie felt like a strange choice for director due to the type of films he generally directs. Also, watching the trailers, the concern only grew. CGI genie looked bad and the overall feel just wasn’t quite right… Still, I remained hopeful.
It turns out my worries were justified. The film just felt off, the first third especially. It came across as cheap in various ways – the cinematography and editing didn’t feel on par with Disney’s usual quality. They felt almost soapy honestly, like something you’d expect from an episode of Coronation Street more than a Disney epic. The sets were clearly sets – it often felt more like a pantomime version being filmed for direct to tv release than a full on Disney film. The production value just felt missing, kinda like the production team just pocketed the money and ran.
The list of issues goes on unfortunately, the Cave of Wonders wasn’t very wondrous, Jafar’s casting and graphics weren’t quite right. And CGI Genie was suffering from a serious bout of uncanny valley syndrome.
OK, but what about the songs? Well… some of them were pretty disappointing – Never had a friend like me saw Will Smith rapping which felt somewhat ham fisted and unconsidered – and the visuals just couldn’t live up to the magic of the original.
Despite this however, it wasn’t all bad.
Prince Ali was a great sequence which captured much more of the magic I felt was missing in a friend like me. A whole new world was great, it felt like an homage to the animation. And Jasmine’s new song was solid too, although I wasn’t quite sure what was going on visually – she seemed to be dusting people Thanos style. If anyone can explain that to me please let me know what was going on in the comments. I couldn’t quite get my head around the message.
Anyway getting back to positives here – Will Smith was great when he wasn’t blue. And I feel he really lifts the quality of the movie once he enters. All of my issues with the start of the movie seemed to subside and I think that’s a testament to his personality and charisma rubbing off on the rest of the production – if anyone could come close to Robin Williams’ Genie it would be him in my eyes.
I also really liked Abu and the carpet – and while I don’t think they quite captured the characters of the originals, they were excellent. Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine were solid castings overall, they certainly looked the part, and I really liked the addition of Nasim Pedrad as Princess Jasmine’s hand maid – and Billy Magnussen was hilarious as Prince Anders, Aladdin’s competition.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel I can rate this film highly. It’s a shame to take a classic like Aladdin and make a worse version. I think you need to have that respect for the source material and give it the love it deserves – and I just don’t think Guy Ritchie was a good fit for it. That said I have enjoyed recent Disney films like Moana and the Mary Poppins sequel for example. So I can’t help but think some involvement from Lin Manuel Miranda would’ve really helped bring this film to life.
Aladdin 2019 gets 1 thumbs down from me. I’d recommend you go see it though, if just to make up your own mind. But ultimately I’d suggest that rewatching the original at home could be a much better experience.