The Same Old World
Disney’s live action remakes have been a real mixed bag of quality. From the excellent Jungle Book to the poorly reviewed Dumbo, Disney’s mission to redo all their old classics have been met with mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. Trying to tackle the 1992 classic Aladdin was always going to be a tough ask. Despite a visually stunning film full of great choreography, dancing and singing numbers, Aladdin fails to bring anything new to the table, delivering a lacklustre remake devoid of the same excitement and wonder the original achieved all those years ago.
With the exception of a few modern subplots to the main story, Aladdin’s story remains largely unchanged. For those unaware, this revolves around a poor boy called Aladdin who falls in love with Princess Jasmine. Eventually he winds up in possession of a magic lamp, with a genie inside that promises him 3 wishes. Upon using his first wish, the story sees Aladdin don the persona of Prince Ali and attempt to win over the heart of Princess Jasmine whilst the evil Jafar brainwashes the Sultan and forces Jasmine’s hand in marriage. Most of the story here adopts the same plot beats as the original with a few obvious exceptions, including no giant serpent at the end.
When it comes to the visuals though, Aladdin does a wonderful job bringing Agrabah to life. The entire film is bursting with colour and the songs are generally well choreographed and sung decently with a good range. While a few of the newer songs for Jasmine fall flat and fail to match up to the originals, there’s enough here to keep Aladdin tonally consistent for much of its run time. Although Agrabah does look great, the sets themselves feel a bit flat, lacking character thanks to the abundance of green screen throughout the picture.
While Aladdin and Jasmine are fine in their roles, with enough chemistry together to keep things moving at a consistent pace, Jafar’s miscasting ultimately holds the film back from being a better title. Gone are the whimsically maniacal laughs, gone is the twirly mustache and menacing grins and gone is the iconic, charismatic Iago. Instead, Jafar is a lifeless, forgettable villain, unable to match up to the same villainous prestige the cartoon achieved all those years ago. I genuinely believe his character is the biggest pitfall here, and the reason Aladdin fails to inspire as much as it perhaps should.
Given the amount of buzz and critique around Will Smith’s casting as the genie before the film, it’s ironic then that he’s one of the highlights. Matching up to Robin William’s breakthrough performance back in 1992 was always going to be a tough ask but Smith does a great job with the part. With multiple teleporting poofs, visually stunning beats and a charismatic charm oozing through every scene, the Genie elevates almost every scene he’s portrayed in, even with the added inclusion of a questionable romance with Jasmine’s handmaiden.
Aladdin is what it is. It’s a live action remake that’ll make a boatload of money at the box office, please many people and keep the remake train running smoothly for Disney. As a film there’s nothing inherently wrong with Aladdin but it also feels devoid of any real charm and character, failing to improve on the original many class as a true classic in every sense of the word. There’s enough here to make it worth checking out if you’re a fan of the original but beyond that, there really isn’t anything improved or changed for the better here.