“Aladdin” Is A Wish Not Even The Genie Can Fulfill

Bradley Hare

I already have a film like this that was so much better.

It’s no secret that the Disney live action remakes haven’t been getting the same love that the original films received. Despite this, there still seems to be a market for them, as Disney keeps making money back and then some on them. With Aladdin, the very little magic these films had shows that it’s only fading away still.

The film follows the original Disney film on a beat by beat basis. Aladdin is a street urchin who lives by stealing food for him and his monkey Apu. After running in with the princess Jasmine, he ends up getting arrested by Jafar, the grand vizier for the Sultan of Agrabah. However, Jafar frees him on the condition of retrieving a magic lamp from a magical cave for him. However, Aladdin ends up in possession of the lamp after being trapped in them, and uses it and the genie of the lamp to try and win the hand of princess Jasmine in marriage.

Paradoxically, Disney’s attempts at making their films more magical by having them look more realistic keeps making them look more dull. The major problem with trying to make everything realistic is that you can exaggerate nearly as much as before. Iago goes from being a smart mouth bird with a snarky remark for next to every line to being an actual parrot, effectively destroying his character. Aladdin, played Mena Massoud, an actual Egyptian hailing from Cairo, seems like he is mostly reading his lines off of cue cards; his heart really isn’t in it. Naomi Scott, the actor for Jasmine, is a bit better than Mena, although her singing voice still leaves plenty to be desired.

This dulling effect is most obvious during the musical numbers. There is the usual problem with the singers just not being up to snuff with the original. While the songs are fine on their own if you can excuse the auto tune, when the visuals are added, it’s shockingly lacking in comparison to the animated counterpart; Friend Like Me and Prince Ali don’t nearly have as much going on in the background as the original songs did, where you could watch them again and again and notice new things. The reprise for Prince Ali doesn’t even make an appearance; instead we get Jasmine’s empowerment song for women, “Speechless”.

Now, I am more than open to the idea of women being shown as powerful figures in media; Moana from her titular movie was a powerful female who we were able to see be powerful in how she was able to use her brains and heart to deal with situations. Wonder Woman’s charge through No Man’s Land in her movie is posterworthy for many, myself included, for being sheer bravery. However, that’s the trick; show, don’t tell, and Naomi Scott literally singing about how she won’t be silent is just that, telling. Even worse is that in the end it actually doesn’t affect the story in any way, even after she speaks up. The song and her big moment of speaking out could have been cut out and nothing would change. Also, it’s funny how Disney says this is the realistic version while insisting that a woman wanting to be sultan would have been okay in the time this movie took place, that being around the 18th century.

And then there is the genie, Will Smith. Bless his heart, he knew the danger this role would bring, and I can tell that he did try his best. He does have a couple funny lines here and there, but he just can’t replace the late Robin Williams. The guy was able to improvise around 16 hours of dialogue not used for the movie, and even improvised the stuff the merchant at the start of the animated movie, also played by him, was trying to sell. It’s essentially like trying to cast the voice actor for Spongebob as anyone besides Tom Kenny; the two are just too inseparable.

The only real bright spot here is that the visual landscape of actually spot on to how I thought it would look in real life when watching the film as a child. The desert is as atmospheric and isolated as one would expect a desert to be. Agrabah is popping with nice colors to represent the lively day by day basis these characters go by. The royal place lives up to the name and then some.

However, in the end, too much has been taken out and not nearly enough has been put in place to justify it. It may look pretty, but when it comes down to it, this film is no diamond in the rough.

Overall Score: 3/10