ALADDIN / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: GUY RITCHIE / SCREENPLAY: JOHN AUGUST, GUY RITCHIE / STARRING: MENA MASSOUD, NAOMI SCOTT, WILL SMITH, MARWAN KENZARI, NAVID NEGAHBAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
If there's one thing you can't accuse Disney of, it's slacking. As well as the various sequels, relaunches, revisions and reboots there's the 'live action' reimagining of several of their classics, with the latest offering being Aladdin. It’s an ambitious undertaking on a grand scale and one that pays off.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it stars Aladdin (Massoud), a lovable street urchin who falls in love with the rebelliously independent Princess Jasmine (Scott), daughter of the ruling sultan of Agrabah (Negahban).
Aladdin is recruited by the nefarious Jafar (Kenzari), the grand vizier and advisor to the Sultan, to steal a magic lamp that will help Jafar become ruler of Agrabah. After Jafar’s true nature is revealed, Aladdin ends up with the lamp, freeing a genie (Smith) trapped within it who grants his new ‘master’ three wishes. In order to woo Jasmine, Aladdin uses his first wish to become a prince. However his true identity and the plans of Jafar threaten to change everything.
It’s a faithful adaptation of 1992’s animated version and includes the classic songs A Whole New World, Arabian Nights, Friend Like Me and (this writer’s personal favourite) Prince Ali, all of which are brought to life in spectacular fashion. Director Guy Ritchie mixes his trademark action chase scenes with parkour, giving the film more of a Prince of Persia vibe at times.
Massound, Scott, and Kenzari are well cast, despite some initial criticism. Will Smith was always going to have a tough gig following in Robin Williams’ shoes as the Genie, who gets an added subplot that had been envisioned for the original but scrapped. His charisma suits the role, with some Fresh Prince overtones being purposefully thrown in. He’s also no stranger to uplifting musical numbers.
There are some other additions, too. Namely a new character, handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), as well as the song, Speechless, sung by Jasmine and showing her more as a leader rather than yet another damsel in distress.
The big downfall with Aladdin, and the live-action movies in general, is that there’s something about the unrestricted world of animation that just doesn’t quite translate into live action. Impressive CGI aside, a little bit of the magic gets left behind on the magic carpet.