These posts have already generated some fantastic discussion, but I thought it might be a nice idea to round off the week (or begin another, depending on your time zone) by writing about something a bit more lighthearted.
I just saw the live-action remake of Disney’s Aladdin, and here’s my (spoiler-free) two cents:
First off, I should point out that the 1992 original cartoon is my favourite Disney animated feature, and has been since I was a little girl. So I went into the cinema with some trepidation about how they would treat the beloved source material.
Given the quality of Disney’s recent swathe of live-action remakes, I had very low expectations.
However, it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. In fact, I actually quite liked it. But it’s neither as great nor as terrible as some reviewers would have you believe.
It didn’t fall into the trap of Beauty and the Beast by trying to make a scene-by-scene reincarnation of the original, nor did it go in the other direction, like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and become unrecognisable from the source material.
It was both close enough to the cartoon to be a faithful retelling, but original enough to stand on its own. I found the ‘semi-cognisant’ approach to portraying the animal characters, specifically Abu and Iago, worked without seeming too hammy or unbelievable.
Surprisingly, Will Smith as the Genie turned out to be the best, most dynamic performance of the film. I was positively dreading his portrayal of my favourite character, but I think it worked so well because he wasn’t trying to be Robin Williams. He instead made the character his own, while keeping the zany, hyperactive qualities of the original.
Naomi Scott put forth a wonderfully three-dimensional Princess Jasmine. Perhaps my expectations were low, but her performance impressed me quite a bit. She also has a killer voice!
There were some mild feministic undertones (she wants to rule her people as the next Sultan) but honestly, if this film came out in any other political climate I doubt I would have noticed. However I suspect the lack of scantily-clad women from the cartoon, Jasmine included, is probably a reaction to the #metoo movement (not that I’m complaining).
Mena Massoud was a likeable but pretty bland Aladdin, lacking some of the cheekier, more passionate characteristics we know and love from the 1992 film. Jafar was a total disappointment. The role was cast too young and the performance too unconvincing to pull off such a great villain.
Also, the CGI was surprisingly bad. The Genie especially looked so fake whenever he wasn’t in human form it was distracting.
On the positive side, the musical numbers were treated with all the grandeur they deserved.
Seemingly taking cues from the failures of Disney’s other musical remakes, Guy Ritchie wisely kept the number of original songs limited and short, with the real magic saved for the old favourites (‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’ being the standouts for me).
Overall, I found the tone a bit more serious than the cartoon, which makes sense for a live-action remake. Having said that, it was also really funny, and I was surprised at how much I laughed.
Does it hold a candle to the original? I think perhaps it does. It will never be the original – but thankfully it’s not trying to be, either.
Disney surprised me with this one, and as far as the recent live-action remakes go, I’d put it in second place after Cinderella.
I give it a 6.5 out of 10. What did you think?