Aladdin Review: A Semi-Magical Experience

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Disney’s live action adaptations are in full motion. The concept of bringing Walt Disney’s classics into the second dimension has been going on for a few years now with the studio already adapting some of their most cherished movies. With this year featuring five of these adaptations, with the first being Dumbo, the latest remake takes moviegoers to a whole new world with none other than Aladdin. Aladdin is one of the most notable films to come from the Disney Renaissance and now this eastern tale turned animated classic seeks to be told in a new new format with director Guy Ritchie bringing the story to life. Aladdin has always been a significant film to me and while I was not anticipating this new interpretation I must admit the film still peaked my interest. Venturing to see this Arabian Night for myself I discovered that while it may not have been filled with wonder there was still a little magic to Aladdin.

The plot of course tells the tale of Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who finds a magic lamp and releases a genie (Will Smith) that grants him three wishes. When it comes to storytelling this tale follows the plot points of its animated predecessor through and through; but this was a double edged sword for the movie. While keeping true to the original was to be expected it did however hold the story back in certain areas. This is not to say that the plot did not try to expand on the original story as it did so through its themes and its use of characters. However the story did not go far enough with its new ideas as it briefly touched on certain elements. The pacing also did the plot no favors as it was was rather quick, particularly in the first and third acts, and this lead to some ideas losing their way. Yet despite this I still found myself enjoying the story as its charm and adventure was enough to satisfy this Film Adventurer.

When having a cast filled with memorable characters it can be difficult to recreate that kind of magic, but this cast certainly tried. The difference between this ensemble and its animated counterpart was the emphasis to the character’s backgrounds. This was evident in not just Aladdin but Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Jafar(Marwan Kenzari) as well. This was a good touch for the cast though admittedly the eccentric nature of certain characters, like Jafar, was missed. When it came to new characters the only one that stood out was Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad). Daila was a fine supporting character as she not only had good chemistry with Jasmine but also made for a decent parallel with a certain blue genie. This leads to none other than Will Smith as Genie. While Robin Williams’ portrayal will always be near and dear to me I cannot deny that Smith’s take was acceptable. Smith was able to keep true the essence of the character by putting his own spin on the comical djinn. When it came down to it this cast may not had same sense of character as the original, but their take managed to bring a new light to these classic characters.

In the case of effects Aladdin had a sense of wonder and enchantment to it, but it did have its share of issues. The visuals had a fantasy element to it and it could be creative in certain aspects, but some things like the motion capture for Genie could be off-putting. Equally as important as thespectacle was none other than the music. From “Friend like Me” to “A Whole New World” the movie captured what made original soundtrack so memorable while bringing a new style to each song. There is however an additional song in the form of Jasmine’s ballad “Speechless”. The song was alright as it paralleled with Aladdin’s reprisal of “One Jump Ahead”; but the song felt out of place with the rest of the soundtrack. Overall the technical aspects created a tone that was charming, and this was all but fitting for the likes of Aladdin.

As adaptations go Aladdin lived up to the original, but it was hardly a diamond in the rough. While it followed its predecessor closely it had a difficult time standing on its own which left a timid impression with me. Yet this is not to say that Aladdin had nothing to offer. The story was enjoyable and the cast’s performances brought new dimension to familiar characters. Along with some decent effects the movie’s soundtrack proved to be viable as the songs, more or less, were just as catchy as they were in the original. While it may not have had the same magic as the animated classic, Aladdin managed to be an adaptation with a little wonder and plenty of entertainment to it.

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