Aladdin (2019): Decent Cover of a Classic

I really enjoyed this movie. Being a fan of the classic Disney film from 1992, I was holding this new take to some pretty high standards, and they were mostly met. The 2019 Disney remake, directed by Guy Riche, did a good job paying tribute to the original while expanding on the myth in its own way. Before you get the wrong impression, I don’t really like comparing live-action remakes to their cartoon counterpart. That isn’t the way audience members should go into the film; challenging something with nostalgia never works out in your best interest. Instead we should view the Disney remakes as nostalgia-driven tributes that are made by people that loved the original films as much as we do.

Like I said, I am a huge fan of the 1992 cartoon movie, both sequels, and the TV show that came from the franchise. A big part of that love is from the Genie. So going into this new film, I was mostly curious about Will Smith’s portrayal of the character. I ended up having no disappointment. Will Smith killed it as the Genie and really held the movie together. I think the reason it comes off so is due to the fact he plays it with his own style. It is respectful that the new version of the Genie wasn’t trying to replicate Robin Williams. This Genie drank from martinis, liked to party, and tried to get some action. Majority of the cast was equally great. Mena Massoud, who plays Aladdin, had great on-screen chemistry with Will. Most of their scenes together had me laughing. And then there is, of course, the chemistry between Aladdin and Jasmine.

Most of the Disney princess’ love stories revolve around a princess marrying a prince. But Aladdin was one of the few that broke that troupe, and actually used the stereotype as a plot device. It’s a romantic story. Mena and Naomi Scott, Jasmine, are great together and actually made me think that relationship could be real. Jasmine herself is a little different in this film, and for the better. There were quite a few changes to the remake (it is an hour longer than the 1992 film) One of the major differences is the motivations and character development of Jasmine. The princess gets more screen time and has a better sense of purpose than “someone needs to marry her.” They actually use that older story version as a joke a few times in the movie and it works. I would actuall say majority of the changes in the remake were for the better. However the worst changes all revolved around Jafar.

Marwan Kenzari’s version of the villain was terrible. I wish I could be more respectful but on every level, I hated it. He did not do a good job acting, the character was not well written, and they stripped him of his iconic story. It is a sad statement to say the 2D version of the character had more dimension. They spent so much time on the Genie’s creative powers and then and when we get to see Jafar unleash his, it is just disappointing. “The most powerful sorcerer in the world” does nothing unique or creative at all with that power. They even took away Iago being a wise cracking parrot. Iago was voiced by Alan Turek, and I didn’t expect him to come off like Gilbert Gottfried’s version from the original films, but it’s such a difference that I find it hard to believe no one challenged this choice.

There have been a lot of failed remakes of classic films. Some of those are from Disney themselves. It is a challenge to incorporate the right amount of nostalgia and originality into a film that is banking on fans paying money to see a film they already love. I think Aladdin does a great job with this. There are enough differences that I was interested to see where things went. At the same time, the movie captured the magic I felt as a kid. It is colorful, full of wonder, and makes you smile. Was it as good as the original: No. But that wasn’t what it set out to do. That is why this remake survives The Snappening. It’s a whole new world of possibilities with technology today and this movie has given me the faith check out more Disney live action remakes.

 

Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith

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