- Directed by Guy Ritchie
- May 8, 2019 (Grand Rex) / May 24, 2019 (US)
A kindhearted street urchin and a devious vizier vie for a magic lamp which can make their wildest dreams come true.
I can certainly see the appeal of turning an animated feature into a live action film. I have always thought this. There is just something cool about cartoon characters being portrayed by flesh and blood individuals. That is why properties like Transformers or He-Man have at one point or another received the live action treatment. And that is how we got to Aladdin 2019.
The live action Aladdin 2019 film does have some good points. The story follows the original closely with a few tweaks here and there mostly for the new performers. And the music is just as good as the original. Where it starts to go wrong though is that the production looks like it belongs on television. Reminds me of those NBC miniseries by Hallmark Productions from a few years ago where they would adapt fantasy stories. This is a big budget Disney production. Why does it not look like they spent $183 million on this movie? Did a good chunk go to Will Smith’s paycheck?
Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) as characters are rather bland. They are less real than their animated counterparts. As a screen couple they lack any real chemistry of a romantic nature. Romances hinge on the chemistry between the actors playing the romantic couple and these two do not have much. They are not terrible but they are closer to being good friends than they are lovers or any type of romantic couple.
Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) isn’t bad but in comparison to how he was portrayed in the original film he’s just not as threatening. Again this goes to the feeling that the film is more like a television production than it is a theatrical release. It is like they were aiming for the 8PM family audience and forgot that Jafar was rather dastardly in the original. How can a live action character be weaker than its animated counterpart?
I know Gilbert Gottfried had a falling out with Disney a few years ago but would it have really hurt things to have him return as Iago? Or at the minimum for them to make Iago more of a character like he was in the animated version? He is Jafar‘s pet bird sidekick buddy with barely a presence in the film. It’s like they took a few lines and actions from other characters and gave it to him and he was there just for nostalgia because the suits demanded it.
Will Smith is perhaps the best performance in this movie. Seriously. Comparing him to Robin Williams version of Genie would be unfair because Williams was a genuinely unique performer and did something with his voice acting of the character that no one could equal in live action or in animation.
Smith is very Will Smith in the role. And that works well in this movie. If you have seen one Will Smith character you’ve probably seen most of them. At least of his bigger grossing films. It is a performance that stretches all the way back to his to has time as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
In this live action film they give Genie a romantic subplot. And I use that term loosely. Genie just kind of shows up and Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) immediately falls for him. I am not calling Smith ugly but he is not known to make women swoon. Nor does Pedrad have the reputation of being a stunning beauty. What I am saying is a romance that begins with “They’re hot!” is just lazy. Get the characters to interact just once before they are running off to have kids. They do have a pair at the end BTW.
Aladdin is not unwatchable, but it is not as good as it could be. There was just so much potential for stunning visuals with a great story and it was wasted. I’m not saying a film should be just stunning visuals but you have an exotic land. You have magic in a story. You have much of the action taking place in a royal palace. This should be a very pretty film to look at with plenty of “Wow!” moments but while there are pretty moments to look at, there are not many “Wow!” moments if any at all. And the story itself is meh.
Aladdin is a live action adaption of the classic animated feature that just doesn’t quite work. It’s missing a little something. I won’t say don’t watch it but don’t expect the same quality as you had with the first.