Get ready, because this carpet ride is about to take off on a whole new (yet familiar) world filled with adventure, magic, mystery, and wonder. The difference this time around – it’s all live-action. Disney’s new Aladdin is directed by Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes 2009, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1998) and written by John August (Big Fish 2003, Dark Shadows 2012), with Guy helping by adding his signature touch to the script.
Flying into theaters Friday, May 24th through Walt Disney Pictures, the film stars Will Smith (Ali 2001, I Am Legend 2007), Mena Massoud (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, Open Heart series), and Naomi Scott (The Martian 2015, Power Rangers 2017). Aladdin (Massoud) is a common street rat who happens to cross paths with Jasmine (Scott), who is the princess to the Sultan (Navid Negahban: Legion series, American Sniper 2014) of Agrabah. Jafar (Marwan Kenzari: Murder on the Orient Express 2017, The Mummy 2017), who is the Sultan’s loyal and trusted advisor, takes notice of Aladdin and enlists his help to retrieve a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Things turn sideways for them both, but luckily for Aladdin, he comes across a magical Genie (Smith) who can grant him three wishes for whatever his heart desires.
So many new magical opportunities are now available to Aladdin who can now try to win over the princess’ heart, with a little help from his new-found blue friend. Is Aladdin able to accomplish this task even though he is a peasant and she is of royalty? Will he succumb to the selfish desires of his heart like so many others before him who found the magical lamp or will he actually learn and grow to be selfless out of this situation? Where can one find a monkey like Abu? That’s an extremely helpful little assistant Al has there.
So, to get right in the meat of it all, there is a lot of pressure surrounding this new addition to Disney’s growing list of live-action remakes. It is all within good reason. One – it is hard to recreate the magic of what made an original movie so massively appealing where it stayed inside people’s hearts for most of their lives. Two – human beings mostly hate change. With change, we specifically mean with there being a new Genie. Let’s just address the big, blue elephant in the room.
The thing that is initially holding so many back from seeing this movie is that Robin Williams is not the Genie that they knew and love from the original animated film. Understandable, it’s tough to welcome change, but try to imagine the weight and stress that Will Smith is going through in order to do this character justice; that kind of headache and pressure is wished on no man.
The amazing thing about Smith being Genie is – that he did an amazing job. He fully gave himself into this character, bringing him to life, adding his own twist in small ways that would bring a smile to your face. Smith delivered a performance that his forebear, Robin Williams, would be extremely proud of. Whizzing about, singing, dancing, and really letting loose allowed Smith to shine in ways we have not seen since his days on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The rest of the cast held their own, as well. Massoud did a pretty decent job, although his performance came across as hammy here and there. Overall, he was a solid pick for the role of Aladdin. Scott really shined every time she showed up on screen. She delivered such a believable, grounded, and heartfelt performance that will leave you wanting more. Kenzari did well, although there was nothing that really stood out in his performance. Negahban did very well portraying the Sultan as a kind and loving father that so many audiences grew to adore in the original animated film.
A nice addition to the cast is Dalia (Nasim Pedrad: Saturday Night Live series, Despicable Me 2 2013) who plays the handmaiden to Princess Jasmine. She offers much needed comic relief but also helps add layers to the Princess by showcasing to the audience who she is through their relationship. That was a well-done addition to the story and the casting of Pedrad, who delivered and shined in all of her moments when it counted.
Diving into the visuals of Aladdin – they were spectacular. Not that it could not have been better in some extremely small parts, but overall, kudos to the animation team for taking the time by putting the right amount of love and care into making it visually look beautiful. Especially with showing CGI during the daytime scenes – they can prove really problematic but Disney delivered here with their animators putting a lot of elbow grease into this one and it really paid off.
The only small grievance is that some of the musical numbers seemed randomly thrown in and not fluid enough to have a natural flow. Overall, that is minor to all the great things that this film offers. That said, put aside your reservations, if you have any, and have a great time with Aladdin. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this movie 4 out of 5 stars.