Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Mena Massoud, Will Smith
. . . - -
When the first trailer and character images for Aladdin came out, the whole internet was abuzz with what were perceived as lazy musical numbers and a weird-looking Will Smith genie.
For me, Aladdin is one of my favourite Disney animations of all time, cementing a deep admiration for the humorous finesse of the late Robin Williams and songs I can sing in my sleep.
In this live-action version, Agrabah has been turned into a stage reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood movies of the east, bar the racism and yellowface.
Despite the gaudy colours and some auto-tuned flat notes, Aladdin retains the fun, get-on-your-feet-and-dance spirit of the animation, with a few tweaks that turn Jasmine and Aladdin into stronger characters who are more than just a teenage romance.
But be prepared for a very weak beginning. The words “uh-oh” will definitely run through your mind as the film jumps a little too quickly into Jasmine and Aladdin’s meeting in the marketplace, as if a whole scene was skipped.
The One Jump Ahead song’s parkour antics were also incredibly underwhelming. You might even wonder how you will be able to sit through the rest of this high-school stage production.
That is until the genie shows up. Despite what your reservations might have been about the casting, Smith was by far the best choice the film could have made.
His career has been floundering a bit, with some questionable role choices, but finally he has dusted off his old Fresh Prince of Bel-Air groove and repurposed it for the wisecracking, all-powerful being that has finally found a master he can call a friend.
This groove helps get the whole film into gear, and his experienced wit prompts green actor Mena Massoud to blossom into a solid performance.
Unfortunately the film still has many flaws that thankfully didn’t overpower it, but you still feel like Disney could have done better.
The costume design was incredibly tacky, the garish pink and orange colours looked like they came from the back of a 2000s off-Broadway musical wardrobe. The set design lacked authenticity and certain performances were so white Bollywood choreographers would laugh and cry at the same time.
There were certain moments when they sped it up to fit with the fast-paced music, but that just made everyone look clumsy, as if they (or the audience) were on drugs.
- This review first appeared on Channel24, it has been edited for length