One jump ahead of Disney’s hubris?
I’ll be honest: I am rather conflicted about the live-action remastering of Aladdin, slated for this Thursday.
On one hand, it’s unnecessary and it’s clear as day Disney wants to tap into everyone’s nostalgic tendencies. On the other, it’s a competently-directed film with some slight-yet-welcome tweaks and lovely visual updates to the parable about being truthful and not putting up a facade. Try as Disney might, they can’t suppress the stylings and artistic choices that Guy Ritchie has made in at least making this version of Agrabah and its iconic locations a treat for the eyes in live-action form.
As an advocate of the 1992 animation classic that popularized the fourth-wall-breaking sidekick for future animated products (ie The Genie), I’ve prepared a few questions to determine if you are willing to give this remake a chance. Whether you’re a fan of Disney’s past renaissance or just someone who’s going into this blind, do check out these inquiries aplenty:
#1. Do you want to see the masterful direction of Guy Ritchie, the same man who gave us gangster film classics like Snatch and Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, taken to a PG-level wringer here? While not completely muted like Tim Burton’s effort, you can clearly see Guy Ritchie keeping it low-key with flashy-yet-kinda-hollow cinematography.
#2. Are you willing to set aside your biased view and accept the fact that no one will ever replace the enigmatic charm of Robin William’s Genie?
#3. In fact, are you able to keep an open mind and come to terms that Will Smith’s Genie is the show’s scene-stealer with his antics, cocky swagger, and wit, despite the fact that his CGI form is out-of-place and immersion-breaking at times? And thankfully he morphs into human form for the other half of the film?
#4. Speaking of CGI monstrosities, are you also able to tolerate the shenanigans of 2019’s Abu, who is possibly a bigger asshole in this version than in the 1992 classic film?
#5. Would you be keen on hearing classic lines from animated movie forcefully shoved in to pander, and delivered as emphatically as a wooden marionette, to parents who grew up with the past show? Especially when the script would have been fine without these mandatory callbacks?
#6. Are you cool with seeing Mena Massoud’s title character of Aladdin going through the motions as the title character’s charming pauper-turned-prince with a decent performance that doesn’t really elevate beyond its predecessor?
#7. Do you want to see Naomi Scott’s Princess Jasmine be more than a damsel in distress and trophy wife material, complete with her own song number tailor-made for this film to be relevant in this age of #metoo movements? Because personally, this is the only reason why you should at least pay attention to this version of Disney’s Aladdin if you’re one of those progressive movie-goer types. If anything, the Princess Jasmine change is noteworthy.
#8. Would you like to have a pretty weaksauce antagonist in your remastered live-action flick? An actor miscast in a role that portrays him as that oddly creepy uncle, instead of the slimy, scheming, and grandiously evil vizier like in the animated show? Seriously, I thought the live-action Gaston from Beauty & The Beast was inconsequential.
#9. Would you also like a pretty decent side distraction in the form of Nasim Pedrad’s Dalia, Jasmine’s chambermaid who becomes the object of the Genie’s eye?
#10. Also, is your brain able to comprehend the thought of the Genie, a magical entity, being able to woo and boink a human female, essentially reliving a Rule 34 subtopic buried in the depths of the internet in PG form?
#11. Are you ready for a ton of contemporary humour, especially one courtroom scene involving jams as a running joke? Though to be fair, it did make this jaded reviewer snigger a bit.
#12. Would you be down with the artist below to do a rendition of A Whole New World in the end credits? Or keen on hearing a version of the classic Genie-intro tune A Friend Like Me with beats provided by the one and only DJ Khaled?
#13. Do you have a mind of a goldfish where you forget stuff from the early 90s, much less a few weeks ago, and want to see a live-action rendition of an animated show that you can get on Blu-Ray/streaming networks for cheap?
#14. Would you like an ode to that Will Smith movie Hitch at the end of your reboot? You know: the bit with the irrelevant dancing? Because this seems to be a Will Smith thing for comedies and family-friendly flicks involving him? Seriously, I wished there was a set pic of this because it’s just too damn corny and awkward.
If you answered “YES” to most of these questions, then, by all means, spend your money on watching this remake. There’s effort clearly put into this show, what with the vistas and welcome bits of narrative that help elevate some of its main stars beyond their past archetypes.
But at the same time, this is a tale that’s old as that other one with the librarian and man-beast that doesn’t need improving or reiterating with the magic of live-action.
Is Disney’s Aladdin 2019 unnecessary and tryhard? Yes, it is. Devoid of entertainment? Definitely not. Aladdin 2019 has its moments and is blatant in its cash-grabbing weaponized nostalgia motives, but trust me when I say that it could have been worst. Like “Disney direct-to-DVD sequel” levels of bad.
FINAL RATING: 50/100