Disney’s animated “Aladdin” has always had a special place in my heart. It’s the very first movie I saw in theaters. I was about five years old at the time, and I don’t have a lot of super clear memories about the experience. But I do remember loving it so much that I asked my dad to buy me a Jasmine toy on his way home from work.
I saw a good bit of skepticism online regarding Disney’s live action remake of “Aladdin,” but I was actually pretty excited. I’ve really enjoyed some of the live action Disney remakes, because I think they’re an interesting way to retell a beloved story through a fresh, modern lens. The best Disney live action remakes recapture the magic of the animated original they’re based on, but also offer something new.
So, how does the new live action “Aladdin” fare?
Personally, I enjoyed it. It was colorful and fun, and I left the theater with a smile on my face. Still, it is fair to say that the reaction to this film has been somewhat mixed, even though it had a big weekend at the box office. While I personally enjoyed the live action “Aladdin,” it may not work for everyone, and it’s good to know that going in.
The live action “Aladdin” doesn’t really change a lot from the original (I actually think they could have made more significant tweaks, like they did with “Cinderella” and “Maleficent”). But it is fun to hear all the famous songs again, like “A Whole New World.”
For me, the best part of the film was its two stars, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Jasmine. The animated “Aladdin” actually did not have a very diverse voice cast, and Disney, rightfully so, placed an emphasis on authentic casting in the live action version. Massoud is charming and funny as Aladdin, and I can’t wait to see him in other roles. Scott’s powerhouse vocals were definitely a showstopper, and she too has a bright future ahead of her.
I also appreciated that this film has given Jasmine’s character more agency. I have seen some comments about not liking her new song, “Speechless,” but I really loved it. I hope this song’s message inspires the younger viewers who are watching the film: don’t let anyone silence or dismiss you, or try to take away your voice.
Before this movie came out, there was a lot of chatter about Will Smith as the Genie, and it wasn’t necessarily positive. This was always going to be the most difficult part of the film to capture. Robin Williams’ voicework in the original is so iconic, and that’s something you just can’t recreate.
Smith doesn’t try to top or recreate Williams’ performance; he just has fun with the role, and his antics got quite a few chuckles during the showing that I attended. Maybe this portrayal won’t work for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
One of the weaker parts of the film was actually Jafar’s character. I almost felt the performance was too muted; I would have preferred to see a more over-the-top, scenery-chewing portrayal. This isn’t a film where you necessarily need to or even want to go for a more realistic or toned-down feel.
I also thought Guy Ritchie was an interesting/unexpected choice to direct this movie, and I don’t know that the finished film really displays his trademark touch, in the same way that the Sherlock Holmes movies did. He might have been a better fit for a different Disney live action film.
I don’t really have a lot else to add; this is one of those movies where I don’t really want to spend time picking it apart. Although it doesn’t top 2015’s “Cinderella,” which is my favorite Disney live action remake, I enjoyed watching the live action “Aladdin,” and it made me happy. And that was enough for me.