movies

Disney's new Aladdin is flawed but still manages to find its own kind of magic.

Disney’s new live-action Aladdin certainly offers up “a whole new world”, just not a particularly better one.

The revamped and reimagined version of Aladdin takes the story we all remember from the classic 1992 animated movie and blows it up for a more blockbuster outing on the big screen.

If you’re a Disney purist and a diehard fan of the original, then I’m sorry to say that you might be a little underwhelmed with British director Guy Ritchie’s take on the tale, but the trick is to go into it with an open mind.

In the film, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a thieving street urchin living in the fictional desert kingdom of Agrabah with his pet monkey/best friend, Abu.

One day in the marketplace he rescues and then befriends Princess Jasmine of Agrabah (Naomi Scott), who has been hidden away from sight since her mother was murdered many years ago.  Jasmine is attempting to explore the kingdom she’s been separated from, all because instead of marrying a foreign Prince to rule the kingdom she wants to be the Sultan herself.

While sneaking into the palace to return Jasmine’s stolen bracelet, not knowing yet that she is the princess as she has been posing as her handmaiden Dahlia, Aladdin is arrested by Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and taken to the Cave of Wonders to obtain the Genie’s lamp.

Of course, Aladdin ends up securing the lamp himself and begins using his three wishes to change his life and morph into a Prince in order to impress Jasmine.

While the lush and lavish sets and costumes in Aladdin provide a tasty feast for your eyes, there are a few pieces of this puzzle that really just don’t fit together.

The characters take a little warming up to, the iconic songs that scored two Academy Awards back in the day are strangely lacklustre in this adaption (there’s also an original tune jammed in there that will haunt my dreams forever, but more on that later) and Jafar just doesn’t seem all that threatening a villain when not in cartoon form.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) befriends Princess Jasmine of Agrabah (Naomi Scott) in Aladdin. Source: Disney.

And yet, somehow, this new Aladdin is packing just enough magic to make it an enjoyable watch, and most of that on-screen magic can be traced back to just one name.

Will Smith.

Without a doubt, Will Smith, who plays the movie's floating, blue and wise-cracking Genie is the MVP of this new Aladdin. 

ADVERTISEMENT

I have to say that I was a little nervous for the poor guy prior to seeing the movie (well, as nervous as anyone can be for a handsome movie star being paid millions of dollars to live out his dreams) because in reality, this iconic role will always belong to the original voice actor who brought it to life, the late Robin Williams.

Even with such a legacy hanging over his head, Smith comes out swinging from his very first scene and is working so hard to win the audience over throughout the entire movie that at one point I swear beads of sweat began to appear across his turquoise, CGI skin.

Many of his quips and one-liners are improvised, as were Robin Williams, yet there's just enough of a modern twist to the jokes that they can stand on their own feet.

The Genie's role in this version of Aladdin is much more fleshed out and humanised than it has been in past iterations (I guess those movie makers really wanted to get their money's worth out of Smith) to the point where he even has a love interest and a very different end to his story than the one we've come to know.

Mena Massoud is warmly adorable as Aladdin and Naomi Scott shines as a fierce and feminist Jasmine whose storyline is about so much more than just falling in love with a guy who takes her on a pretty spectacular date featuring a sentient rug.

Where the movie does fail, however, and it hurts my heart to say this, is in the execution of Disney's classic songs.

The rearrangements of classic hits like One Jump Ahead and Friend Like Me barely make a blip on the screen despite their enduring catchy tunes and witty lyrics and what should have been slam-drunk moments for the movie oddly suck all the energy from the screen.

The inclusion of an original song to film, in the form of Naomi Scott's poppy power balled Speechless, was both an assault on my ears and just a general planned attack on anyone whose childhood was shaped by Disney tunes.

Not only does the song feel wildly out of place alongside the more classic musical tunes, but it also repeatedly reared its ugly head at the most inopportune moments throughout the movie.

There's a climactic scene in the last half of the film where you think Princess Jasmine is about to kick some ass and instead the rest of the characters all freeze so she can dance around the room, raise her hands to the sky and belt out Speechless while tears of passion literally leak from her eyes.

The whole thing plays out like a failed audition tape for the original High School Musical and although Scott is a talented singer, it's still the first time in my life I've ever truly been embarrassed for a fictional character.

Despite these blips, I'd still say that overall Aladdin is the best of all the live-action remakes Disney has cranked out over the last few years.

If you're a die-hard Disney fan, then this is a movie moment you cannot miss.

Just ensure that you listen to the original soundtrack on your way home.

Aladdin will be released in cinemas Australia-wide on Thursday, May 23. It is rated PG. 

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

Tags: entertainment-3 , features , movies , pop-culture
00:00 / ???