Disney once was the definition of creative and magical. Their animated films could transport you to any number of fantasy worlds, drawing you in with their beautifully crafted characters, stories, and catchy musical numbers. But as the company has gotten bigger over the years, their storytelling ability has been spread thin over their multiple properties, with their live action remakes taking the biggest hit. Two months ago Dumbo took a nosedive with its uninspiring remake that added nothing to the original animated film. Aladdin unfortunately follows that same mindset, making you question why this live action remake needs to exist in the first place. It’s better than Dumbo thanks to its musical numbers and some decent performances out of its leads Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, but everything else about the film lacks any energy or excitement.
Aladdin follows the same story as the original 1992 animated film about a street thief (Mena Massoud) who falls for Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) of Agrabah. The problem is that the princess, by law, can only marry a prince. Aladdin is recruited by the Sultan’s Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) to retrieve a lamp from the Cave of Wonders, but when he’s double crossed, Aladdin inspects the lamp and releases the magical Genie (Will Smith) contained within. With three wishes at his disposal, he figures that the Genie can just turn him into a prince and that he can then win over Jasmine’s heart.
Disney’s live action remake has faced an uphill battle with audiences ever since the marketing for the film began. The first images of Will Smith as the big blue Genie did not go over well, and the trailers failed to capture any of the magic of the original. The good news is that Aladdin isn’t as nearly as bad as its marketing has been. The bad news is that it still isn’t that great, either.
Like Dumbo, I was constantly wondering to myself “Why?” Why does Aladdin need to be remade into a live action movie, especially when this newer version doesn’t really add anything of significance to its story or characters. Jasmine gets a couple of empowering moments including a new song “Speechless,” that is actually great, but it doesn’t change the story at all. I do love the song, and Naomi Scott kills it during its scene, but it feels shoehorned in. The story is still all about Aladdin doing whatever he can to get the girl.
Will Smith as the Genie is fine. He’s not as terrible as the trailers make him out to be, but his performance is all over the place. “Friend Like Me” is fun and has some energy to it, but then you get to something like "Prince Ali" which is completely lifeless and off tune. Yes, it’s going to be impossible to live up to the humor and passion of Robin Williams; his Genie is iconic. Smith’s Genie is a shell of a character. It’s not like he’s trying to do something completely different, either. He just tries to add a little more coolness to the character, which doesn’t work at all.
Another character who doesn’t work is Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar. He’s just not menacing enough. He’s your stereotypical bad guy who wants ultimate power. Again, the film is just going through all the same motions at the original. There’s nothing to take away from it, other than the fact that it may inspire you to watch the animated film again for nostalgic purposes.
Aladdin is a film that exists but serves no real purpose. Some of its elements are bearable, but there aren’t enough of them to make the film noteworthy. Worse, it’s the bad scenes that will stick in your mind when the credits start rolling. Aladdin still has me questioning “Why?” and I suppose I’ll never get an answer to that other than, “Because Disney.”