Aladdin movie review: A decent, nostalgic ride

The folks at Disney keep using the line, ‘If you are good at something, keep doing it’, a play on Joker’s famous punch-line from The Dark Knight.

Published: 25th May 2019 10:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th May 2019 10:17 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

The folks at Disney keep using the line, ‘If you are good at something, keep doing it’, a play on Joker’s famous punch-line from The Dark Knight. The studio’s track record and list of upcoming films have proved that they have no qualms in doing live-action rehashes from the Disney Renaissance — the decade from 1989 to 1999 in which they produced critically acclaimed animated films.

We got a Beauty and the Beast film in 2017, and we have a Lion King film scheduled to release this year, followed by a The Hunchback of Notre Dame remake. Their latest offering is the live-action film, Aladdin, a story that has been retold innumerable times over the years. The 1992 animated musical is a classic, in which Robin William’s voice for the Genie is considered to be one of the actor’s best performances. So, the present adaptation really had a lot to live up to. 

What impressed me the most about this film, even before stepping into the theatre, was the presence of a diverse cast, something the 1992 film was also criticised for not having this. The adaptation stars Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud (Aladdin), British-Indian Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine) and Dutch-Tunisian Marwan Kenzari (Jafar) in the primary roles. Even the sultan and the princess’ assistant Dalia is played by Iranian actors Navid Negahban and Nasim Pedrad, respectively. 


Despite retelling the same story, director Guy Ritchie, who is no stranger to adaptations (Sherlock Holmes), does some minute tweaks to the original, thereby making a huge difference in the way the final product turns out to be. For example, the love angle of the Genie (played by a miscast Will Smith) and the extended character arc of Princess Jasmine, work well.

While the original film was more about finding the princess a perfect groom, the adaptation features a more ambitious Jasmine, who blurts lines like, “I was born to do more than marry some useless prince.” At a time when Jon Snow’s (from Game of Thrones) male privilege is attacked by memes, is welcomed with parody memes, it’s a welcome sight to see such a tweak. She even gets her own song — a lovely Speechless — which is something the original didn’t have, courtesy of composer Alan Menken, who makes a grand comeback to the franchise. However, the fact that the adaptation starts with the Genie narrating the story to his kids, ruins the idea behind Aladdin doing what it takes to get his hands on the magic lamp. 

For the audience, which is familiar with the original, the new film’s visuals are sure to be a pleasant surprise. The rich colours and CG effects are surely worth a trip to your nearest IMAX screen. While the grandeur of the city of Agrabah gets translated onto the big screen well, it’s parkour-worthy streets reminded me of Assasin’s Creed. The characters are mostly fleshed out well.

We get to know what happened to Jasmine’s mother, probably a first for a Disney princess, a character is almost always written as an orphan. The dialogues also hit the right chords. For instance, the helplessness of a poor Aladdin and the greed of the power-thirsty Jafar are established with lines such as, “If you don’t have anything, you act like you have everything” and “Steal an apple, you’re a thief, steal a kingdom and you’re a kingsman”, respectively.

The issues in Aladdin are unfortunately as many as the merits. The film suffers from a weak antagonist, as Marwan Kenzari fails to nail the menacing nature of Jafar. But the bigger problem is getting Will Smith to play the role of Genie.

The man is undoubtedly funny, but the humour quickly gets rather one-dimensional, when compared with Williams’ interpretation of the role, who brought his stand-up comedy experience to the table. The tweaks, at times, feel insufficient, considering the premise is something we are well versed with. Aladdin, hence, comes across as a half-hearted attempt to retell the classic for the current generation, something that doesn’t reach the heights the makers wished for, even with the help of the magic carpet.

Director:  Guy Ritchie
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott

Rating: 2.5/5

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