If you have read some of my other reviews, you are probably aware that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with remakes and reboots, especially when it comes to live-action remakes of classic animated films. Some have smashed it out of the park (Beauty and the Beast) whereas others have fallen woefully short of the mark (Dumbo). For me, Disney’s latest offering falls somewhere in the middle.
Whilst the film was quite good visually, personally, I found it to be a little bit meh, and I think this is because I am not particularly enamoured with the original. If I am completely honest, with the exception of a couple of obvious songs, I can’t even tell you which songs were from the original movie and which were added for this one. However, I would take my opinion with a pinch of salt, if you are fans of the original then I am pretty sure you will enjoy this one just as much.
On the streets of Agrabah, in the shadow of the great palace, street urchin and petty thief, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) does what he must in order to get by, but a chance encounter with a beautiful handmaiden, ‘Dalia’, who is really the Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) in disguise, sets Aladdin on a mission to win her heart.
Aladdin breaks into the palace and is captured by the villainous Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who offers him all the riches he needs to woo a princess, if he just completes one task for him; get a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. After being double-crossed by Jafar and left for dead in the cave, Aladdin learns the magic of the lamp and embarks on a journey of magic, wealth and self-discovery, with the help of his monkey friend Abu, a magic carpet and a wise-cracking, somewhat sarcastic genie (Will Smith).
A lot of care and attention went into the casting for this film and it shows in the final product. As the titular character, relative newcomer Mena Massoud delivers a thoroughly likeable and endearing performance, handling the lead role very well. Kenzari’s turn as Jafar felt a little weak but I think this is more to do with script and story-telling rather than the actor, had he been given a little more to work with, I think he could’ve rounded out the character quite nicely.
For me, the star of the show was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. She was captivating on screen and delivered on the musical numbers, especially on the new song written especially for her character. Scott’s Jasmine is one for our time, portraying a strength that comes from courage of conviction and self-belief.
Let’s be honest though, the real focus is on Will Smith and whether he can fill the shoes of the late, great Robin Williams. I’ll admit myself, that when I first saw the trailer I was a little sceptical but I am pleased to say that I think Smith did a great job as Genie.
Rather than trying to emulate Williams’ performance, Smith took the character and made it his own. Whereas Williams portrayal was a little zany, and had the animation to match, Smith’s is a little more down to earth, sarcastic and surprisingly sassy, delivering one of my favourite lines in the film, “In ten thousand years, I have never been so embarrassed“. The hip-hop vibe he adds to his musical numbers refreshes the familiar and brings in bang up to date.
There is no real possibility that Smith’s genie will be as iconic as Williams’, however, having seen the film, I would struggle to think of anyone else who would’ve been capable of filling Williams’ shoes.
Although my own enjoyment of the story was a little sub-par, I know that I will probably be in the minority and I can’t deny that director Guy Ritchie managed to bring a colourful, energetic and vibrant reimagining to the screen with a finished product that will be loved by families and Disney fans all over.
So that being said, grab the kids and the popcorn and check it out for yourselves. Already seen it? Let me know what your thoughts.