Disney is responsible for some of the most memorable children’s movies in the history of cinema. From 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to 2016’s Moana, Disney’s stories progressed with both the times and the technology of the era, always seemingly revolutionizing the standards set by its predecessors. In 1992 the release of the animated feature Aladdin marked a new chapter in Disney’s existence, as it became not only the highest grossing movie of the year but also the highest grossing cartoon ever at the time. Along with this incredible achievement, it was nominated for two Oscars and won two Golden Globes. So it was no surprise that with Disney’s lineup of live-action remakes in the works, Aladdin would be toward the top of the list. Now with a buildup that the original rightfully deserves, here are my thoughts on the 2019 adaptation directed by Guy Ritchie.
Going into this movie, I must say I felt quite conflicted. Part of me was displeased that Disney would touch upon something already so well done (for what seems like an obvious cash grab), while the other part of me hoped for a film that could live up to the magic and wonder of the original. After watching, I believe this movie was the best that it possibly could be, and despite its flaws, the film was a lot of fun and very enjoyable.
Aladdin‘s two main characters, Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine, gave solid performances. Equally as impressive, the two actors carried the load for the majority of songs, which I found were very well done. I also enjoyed the addition of actress Nasim Pedrad to the fold; she played a new character named Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaiden, and was a surprising scene-stealer with her subtle comedic interjections. Yet my favorite character in the movie was definitely Genie as played by Will Smith. I was nervous to see how he’d handle the role, not only because it could make or break the movie, but also because the role has high standards from its original casting: the late and great Robin Williams. However, Will Smith did not try to play the genie as Robin Williams did. Instead, he opted to play the role in his own way, which was both charming and magnetic in a style specific to the actor. Similar to anyone playing the Joker after Heath Ledger, it is not easy to fill the role of an iconic actor. But Will Smith managed to help carry this movie and I am please he was the actor cast for the role.
The film really succeeds in its stunning visuals; simply put the movie is shot beautifully. Guy Ritchie plays with a number of film techniques that bring the camera into the action, fully immersing the viewer in the fantastic, imaginary land of Agrabah. Disney spent approximately $180 million on the budget, one can definitely see it was well spent. Aladdin is a visual treat, and to say that the sets, musical numbers, and costumes are breathtaking is quite simply an understatement. Ritchie managed to bring the story and setting from a fairytale to life, and it did so wonderfully and successfully. The movie made over $100 million on its opening weekend; it appears I was not the only who enjoyed a trip to the theaters to see it.
I did find some faults in the movie however, particularly regarding the pacing of the plot. Some parts of the movie dragged on, while other parts just seemed to be moving too quickly. I also found that this movie seemed to lack the particular charm that the original cartoon possessed. There is an intangible and sort of intrinsic warm-feeling that accompanied the original, and while this film occasionally achieves it, for the most part it unfortunately fell short. The failure to materialize some endearing moments of the movie left some of the key emotional parts of the movie with a rather empty feeling.
If you go into this film without expecting an identical rehash of the original, you won’t be disappointed. It doesn’t try to completely replicate the cartoon, which was definitely for the better. The live action film followed the same basic storyline but added some new songs and elements to separate itself from its animated counterpart. I recommend enjoying the movie for what it is: a visual spectacle with some comical elements and extraordinary musical numbers. It is an enjoyable watch for any age, making it a great movie for sitting back and snacking on a large bucket of popcorn.
This 2019 adaptation builds upon a great story in some ways but nevertheless falls short in a few aspects. Regardless, it is both exciting and amusing, which helps to make it a fantastic theater-going experience. I can confidently say that with this movie, a new generation of children will have their own version of Aladdin to provide joy, and years from now they’ll look back and smile with fond memories.
Cover Photo: IMDB