Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad and Billy Magnussen
When Disney revealed that they would be making a live-action remake of their 1992 animated picture of Aladdin, my reaction was, “really, another Disney live-action remake!”
I’m going to be honest though, it did intrigue me much more than the other Disney remakes. So far, Disney has remade Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty And The Beast, and they’re about to release the live-action take on The Lion King.
People may be against the idea of these remakes, but you’ve got to hand it to Disney, they’ve been raking in the cash. The movies themselves have been fine. Not great. The Jungle Book stands out as the best one so far, but imagine my surprise when I came out of having seen Aladdin thinking, “You know what, I thoroughly enjoyed that!”
I really wasn’t expecting to like this film whatsoever. I mean, a Guy Ritchie directed version of Aladdin in which Will Smith plays the Genie, a character who’d previously been brought to life by the legend, Robin Williams.
Only one may enter here. One whose worth lies far within. The diamond in the rough.
I just couldn’t see how Smith, given his recent track record, was going to do anything interesting with that role. But, boy, how wrong was I? I’ll go into why that is a bit later on in this review.
Even though I’m sure most of you will be familiar with the plot, it is my duty to try and give you a brief overview of what the film’s all about.
Mena Massoud plays the dashing young miscreant, Aladdin, who’s often described as a street rat and a good-for-nothing thief, living in the desert kingdom of Agrabah, along with his cheeky pet monkey Abu.
Their lives are drastically changed when he helps Naomi Scott’s Princess Jasmine who’s decided to take a stroll in the kingdom, something which her father does not allow her to do. However, Aladdin thinks she’s the Princess’ handmaid.
He then sneaks into the palace at night and is spotted by the Grand Vizier Jafar (the Sultan’s number two, but don’t tell him that, it makes him rather angry).
Bring me the lamp. Your life begins now, Aladdin.
Jafar is on the search for ‘the diamond in the rough’ who can retrieve a very special lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Within this lamp resides Will Smith’s Genie who has the power to give three wishes to whoever holds the lamp.
Naturally, Jafar wants the use the wishes to become the Sultan, but after a series of unfortunate (or fortunate, depends on how you view things) Aladdin ends up trapped in the cave and rubs the lamp by mistake, and the rest, well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens.
Now, why did I find myself laughing, crying and gasping during this film, despite being very familiar with the story after having watched the animated movie on hard rotation as a child?
I’ve been thinking long and hard about this one, and I believe the answer is simple. The film is cast incredibly well, solidly directed, and the story is a timeless one.
There’s very little ‘Guy Ritchiness’ in this film. He’s a director which a lot of quirks, and whether you like him or not, these quirks would have got in the way of a film like Aladdin.
I thought a princess could go anywhere.
There are a few moments where scenes are either speed up or slowed down, but apart from that, there’s very little Ritchie DNA in this film. And those moments of Ritchiness actually detracted from the movie because they don’t really add anything to the proceedings.
But, what he has done is make a vibrant film, full of lavish colours, beautiful set pieces and locations, and yes, the catchy tunes you know so well.
I loved the film’s versions of A Friend Like Me and A Whole New World, and they’re given a fresh lick of paint thanks to the likes of Naomi Scott and Will Smith.
Casting Smith as the Genie was a masterstroke. He’s been having a rough time of it of late in Hollywood. Most of the films he’s been involved with haven’t been received very well by both critics and moviegoers.
After Earth, Suicide Squad, Collateral Beauty, Bright… None of these films did brilliantly with critics, and it looked like Smith’s career was in the wilderness. It certainly seems like he’s had a fall from grace since being the most bankable Hollywood movie star in the early 2000s.
You cannot break into a palace, like you own the place!
However, the role of the Genie was literally made for him. I can’t think of anybody at the moment who could have done it better. It allows him to show audiences why they loved him so much back in the day.
He gets to sing, rap and be funny. Those are the three things he does best, and he’s truly in his element in Aladdin.
Then there’s Naomi Scott, and say what you will about whether or not she’s the right ethnicity to play the role (remember, Agrabah’s a fictional place), she’s certainly got the singing and acting ability to play Princess Jasmine.
Moreover, this film gives the character so much more to do than she did in the original movie. She’s actually a strong woman which her own motives.
She’s not just pining after some attractive guy here. She wants to rule the kingdom she loves. She wants to be heard.
I made you look like a prince on the outside, but I didn’t change anything on the inside. Prince Ali got you to the door, but Aladdin has to open it.
I really appreciated this, and I felt it gave the character much-needed agency, which is what these live-action Disney adaptations should be doing.
What people forget is that many of Disney’s classic animations are somewhat problematic in their sexual politics and the previous live-action films haven’t really done much to tackle that.
This is the first film to really do so, and I feel it should be applauded for that.
So, yes, it’s cheesy, it’s a bit silly in parts. Guy Ritchie makes some bizarre directorial decisions. But Aladdin is a lot of fun, and it actually succeeds in modernising the story for today’s younger generation. And you know what, I think that’s a good thing.
You really don’t know who I am? Genie, wishes, lamp, none of that ringing a bell?
Meanwhile, why not have a read of our articles on the 5 ways Game of Thrones season 8 dropped the ball, and the 5 movies you should watch if you still think Robert Pattinson won’t be a good Batman.
Aladdin is in cinemas all across the UK now.
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