“Aladdin” (2019) falls short of greatness

Will Smith as the genie.

When it comes to movies, there are the staples, the movies that most people regard as great, memorable movies such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mulan” or “The Little Mermaid.” These movies, while not technically the most perfect movies, have something else that keeps viewers coming back to them. Some would argue that Walt Disney’s 1992 “Aladdin” is one of those movies. In the past decade, old Disney movies getting a live-action remake is becoming more common. Even great ones like “The Jungle Book” are not unheard of… Now, the studio is back with its latest live-action remake for “Aladdin,” which has sparked many discussions ever since it was announced.

The animationation“Aladdin” is a popular one. This new rendition follows most of the beats of the original animated classic. It tells the story of a young thief named Aladdin (played by Mena Massou) who falls in love with Jasmine (Naomi Scott,) The Princess of Agrabah. In an attempt to get a better life, Aladdin discovers a magic lamp which contains a powerful genie (Will Smith). Aladdin now uses it pursue to Jasmine as well as keeps it from Jafar (Marwan Kenzari,) an evil sorcerer who wants to be the King of Agrabah.

In the original animation, the Genie is what makes movie. With the voice of Robin Williams, the Genie has become one of the most recognized Disney characters. Will Smith, as a result, has some big shoes to fill. However, with as much controversy as there was about this casting choice, he did a wonderful job. Smith is a charismatic actor, and though not as great as Robin Williams, he is easily the best part of the movie.

The CGI (Computer-generated imagery) for the Genie character can look “plasticky” at times, but overall was well-done. The character is brought to life in the same spirit as the Robin Williams version, illustrated by his movements, humor and the way he carries himself. While the “Genie form” is seen quite often in the movie, the character often adapts the “human form,” which is essentially Will Smith. Even then, he still brings a level of quips and comedy that makes the movie shine.

Daniel Smith/Walt Disney Pictures
Mena Massoud and Will Smith in Disney’s new live-action ‘Aladdin,’ directed by Guy Ritchie.

It is difficult to know what from the original should be included in the new rendition of the film. With the Genie character, there are jokes that the Robin Williams’ Genie says which are “redone” here. While they work, they are still repeated moment that were previously accomplished with more style. Still, quite a few details were brought back. For example, Aladdin sharing his food with the less fortunate is an iconic moment that is both in the original and the remake version.

The rest of the cast is over-the-top. With the Genie, the larger-than-life persona is required to show his personality. With other characters… not so much… The actors sometimes overact, making it feel more like a stage musical than a film. The stars of the movie are “all over the place.” The character of Jafar appears miscast, and Marwan Kenzari often overdoes the way he deliver lines. Mena Massou, although has his moments as Aladdin, can come off as one note. Naomi Scott, on the other hand, did a good job performing Princess Jasmine, but even she still cannot escape the occasional overacting.

“Aladdin” is a colorful, vibrant movie. The costumes, props and set are designed to be flashy as a palette for musical numbers and choreography. The city of Agrabah is impressive; however, it does not look authentic. Even in some scenes, a movie junkie can tell that a backdrop is not real. The parts where Jasmine is on her balcony best exemplifies the obvious “green screening.”

The musical numbers are great, and most of them are from the original movie. With other parts of the film as a “new coat of paint” outside of the 1992 version, the musical aspect needed the same treatment as well. The songs were given a facelift to give them a modern sound while retaining some of the key elements from the old film. However, people who loved the original might view this as unnecessary.

In the end, if a person is not a fan of the original “Aladdin” from 1992, this is not a movie that will convert them. People have an affinity for the old movie can have a fun time watching the realistic rendering of the animation, but at the end, it is still recycled material. However, the film is a good choice for families in the landscape of saturated remakes that does not look like it will go away anytime soon.