When the animated version of Aladdin was released in 1992, it immediately became a Disney classic – filled with over-the-top (for the time) animations and a vocal performance by Robin Williams (as the Genie) that would set the bar for decades to come.
So I’ll confess that when Disney announced a live-action remake more than 25 years later, I was nervous. Were they going to butcher a beloved classic simply to make another billion dollars? Didn’t they have enough billions by now?
Now, having seen the film, I’ve got good news and bad news.
The good news (for Disney and its shareholders) is that they’re probably on the way to their next billion. The film is bright and colourful and the performances are solid. Even Will Smith as the Genie (a concept that has kept me up at night for months since its announcement) delivers a performance that will eventually win even the most loyal Robin Williams fan over. On top of that, Canada’s own Mena Massoud, along with British actress Naomi Scott, deliver top-notch performances as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.
The bad news is that the directorial choices made by Guy Ritchie range from flat, to “ooh boy, was there really no one else available?”
There is no question that this was a tough movie to make – you’re blending huge special effect heavy musical numbers with tender human connection, which is why it was a surprising choice to put at the helm, a man who had very little experience with either.
Having briefly been married to Madonna does not mean you know anything about musicals and it’s with a heavy heart that I report that the music is what suffers the most in this film. Numbers are either overly auto-tuned or modernized into rap versions to accommodate Smith’s style. They also add a new number for Princess Jasmine who has a lovely voice but the song – which is meant to empower her with a 2019 you-go-girl-feminist-spirit – sounds more like a KeSha tune stuck in the middle of Aladdin, and as a result, just leaves you wondering why they bothered.
But I digress. While I have my complaints, the truth is, there’s more to love than hate in this passable remake. It will bring the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp to a new generation of kids who will no doubt fall in love with the costumes (gorgeous, although many layered), the songs and a very big, very blue, very weirdly large necked Will Smith.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia