In the kingdom of Agrabah, street thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud) helps a royal hand maiden (Naomi Scott) escape an angry street trader for sharing his wares to the poor. Returning a stolen bracelet to her the following night, he is instead captured by the Grand Vizier (Marwan Kenzari) who enslaves him into recovering a mysterious lamp from the desert…
…weaves a surprising spell all of its own.
Disney’s live action remake of Aladdin weaves a surprising spell all of its own. Whereas recent the studio’s most recent live action remakes have brought little to the table in terms of inventiveness or casting, Guy Ritchie’s ‘Aladdin’ does both.
With Will Smith stepping into the lamp-sized shoes of Robin William’s much-loved performance as the genie, there were many who questioned the necessity and wisdom of another remake. However it has to be said, Smith does a service both to Williams and the current audience by not competing with the past. Director Guy Ritchie and his star both seem to know their respective strengths and Will Smith succeeds in infusing the genie with his own particular brand of irreverency (none more so when Aladdin is introduced to the royal court).
So, whilst the lion’s share of concerns might have been with the genie it’s also worth noting the performances of Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Both are surprisingly good in their roles and admirably blast through the movie’s famous playlist of songs. The only bum note in the proceedings belongs to Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Lacking both the gravitas and presence to infuse Aladdin’s nemesis with the requisite menace, his snake-like sceptre ends up out-acting its brandisher.
That said, with its kinetic action sequences and emphasis on dialogue over singing, 2019’s ‘Aladdin’ finds space for a bolstered pro-feminist message that doesn’t feel too forced. Add to this a reinvigorated director, whose recent ‘King Arthur’ which only seemed to herald his demise, Guy Ritchie returns to the screen with the same fluid touch that made his previous ‘Sherlock Holmes‘ movies so arresting. Gone are the smash-cuts, narrated slo-motion sequences and awkwardly painful celebrity cameos and his ‘Aladdin’ is all the better for it.
So, whilst not being the cart-wheeling mess that many expected it to be, the question still has to be asked who is this remake really for? Aimed more at the late arrivers than possibly the previous version’s fanbase, this is a remake that doesn’t exceed the original nor does it a disservice either. Taken on its own terms, this is a more than solid reimagining which now sets a high bar of expectation before the new live-action Lion King roars into view.