I am back after a few weeks off writing other things (maybe one day you will see what) and to get me back in the saddle I had a choice of John Wick 3, Rocketman, Brightburn or Aladdin. As you can tell from the title of this post, I went for the re-imagined Disney classic. My memories of the original Animated Aladdin are a little hazy, but A Whole New World is a certified banger and you all know the words, and that alone puts it high on the list of all time Disney movies.
Of course a huge part of the animated film was the Genie, brought to life by great animation and arguably the greatest comedic voice acting performance ever given by Robin Williams. I think a major concern everyone has with the new Aladdin is that Will Smith, even with all his charisma, couldn’t possibly be up to that historic performance. I am so glad to report that he gives a brilliant performance as the Genie, and does it completely in his own way. Much like the 1992 Genie was a vehicle for Robin Williams’ improvisational personality, this 2019 Genie is gives Will Smith the same platform for letting his own brand of entertainment ensue.
I’ve started with the Genie because he is a huge part of the film, and every scene with him in he owns the screen and you could watch him having fun with his unlimited powers all day. Smith shows that the Genie isn’t a character who can only be played by Robin Williams, just that it’s a character that needs to be played by someone with a huge personality and Will Smith certainly brings that in spades. As entertaining as he is, he is by no means the only star in the show.
As a complete newcomer to my eyes, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Mena Massoud in the title role. He is great casting for Aladdin, and he plays the role with the right amount of cheek and wit. Him and his monkey Abu have a somewhat believable bond, even if the monkey does seem a little too smart at times. I found it hard to have any real problems with him though and there was enough chemistry for me to buy into the budding romance between him and Jasmine.
Power Rangers star Naomi Scott plays Princess Jasmine, and I personally liked a few of the new choices they made with the character this time round. Her desire to be a good ruler for the people is a little bit heavy handed at times but I liked the idea they were going for. The new solo song “Speechless” is heavy handed in a lot of ways but again, I appreciated the message even if it was hammered home a bit too much. Outside of the singing, I think she did a great job playing the princess as a strong character, with her own ambitions beyond just the love of a prince.
I like all of the protagonists a lot, and I wish I could say the same for antagonist Jafar. Marwan Kenzari is fine in the role, but he did become a bit too over the top at times, and he didn’t bring that menacing presence I was hoping for from the character. This kind of makes some parts of the film, mainly the scenes involving Jafar being intimidating, fell a bit flat for me. His sidekick Iago always felt like an evil version of Zazu in Lion King in the animated version, but here he is a relegated to just being a super intelligent parrot, similar to the role Abu plays for Aladdin.
Aladdin doesn’t break any new ground beyond a few lines of Jasmine’s dialogue, and in terms of the plot there is nothing new. If you have seen the ’92 film, you know what is going to happen. The enjoyment I derived from this was seeing a new vision of that story, with a new genie and for me it was a really entertaining film. To some, this film could feel like nothing more than a well funded tribute act, but for me it was like a great band did an awesome cover. This is the movie equivalent of the Fall Out Boy cover of Michael Jackson’s hit Beat It. It’s not the original, but it’s pretty damn good, and you can sing along to every word.
Good: Will Smith crushes it as the Genie, Great breakout performances from the two leads, and the songs are brilliant.
Bad: Jafar underwhelmed me, and if you have recently watched the ’92 Aladdin, it may well give you Déjà Vu.
8/10 – Not a whole new world, but an entertaining one.