Over the past few years, Walt Disney Pictures has been wheeling out a series of live-action adaptations of its ‘Classics’ cartoons. From The Jungle Book (2016) and Cinderella (2015) to Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Dumbo (2019), Disney is cranking out these films at quite a pace, which means sooner or later the studio was going to get to Aladdin.
And of course, that’s where the Mouse House is up to now, because after a couple of trailers and a fair bit of internet backchat, the live-action adaptation of Aladdin has finally rolled into cinemas. The film stars Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith and Marwan Kenzari and is a big budget extravaganza filled with songs, dance numbers and, well, pretty much everything audiences have seen before in the original ‘toon.
But is it any good?
There are currently 57 animated movies which fall under the category of Walt Disney Animated Classics. Aladdin is the 31st.
Of the 57, Aladdin is without a doubt one of the best; up there with the likes of Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Little Mermaid (1989) and The Lion King (1994). It is arguably a faultless piece of animation, which boasts fantastic tunes, a healthy dose of adventure, and one of the best vocal performances from the late, great Robin Williams.
This new live-action take on Aladdin tries to match the original, but unfortunately it falls a little short. That’s not to say this is a bad adaptation -it isn’t – it just simply can’t compete with what has come before.
The good news is that Will Smith isn’t as bad as some had predicted. The CGI that is used to bring his Genie to life is pretty ropey at times, but Smith himself is fine. Some of his vocal choices feel a bit off and he butchers the opening song (Arabian Nights), but once the movie settles into its groove he becomes a lot of fun. He also gets an interesting side story which helps develop his character – something not included in the original.
The bad news is that Marwan Kenzari is as lacklustre as you’ve heard. His take on the villainous Jafar is woefully pedestrian, and is devoid of the oomph needed to be a Disney icon. As for his interactions with his parrot Iago, well, they’re just not there – Iago is a completely wasted character, which is a shame as he was SO GOOD in the original movie, as well as the subsequent film/TV spin-offs.
As for everything else, all the content lifted from the animated movie works well; the addition of a new character (Dalia) and a new song (Speechless) enhance the story; and Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud are perfect as Jasmine and Aladdin, respectively. These two are magical together and embody their animated counterparts effortlessly.
Massoud is great as street rat-cum-prince, Aladdin and is a likeable lead. But it’s Scott who is the star of this picture, bringing a real strength to Jasmine that has not been seen before.
So, did I like Aladdin?
Yes – but the shadow of the original looms large and it’s pretty much inescapable.
Ultimately, this is a movie that is fine to watch and certainly is enjoyable, yet when an already perfect version exists, is there much point with a new one?
I guess that’s for audiences to decide.
For me, I liked what I saw (well, mostly – it did seem a little ‘unfinished’ in places), but when I next get a desire to revisit Aladdin, I know it’ll be the animated version I jump to. So not bad, but not the ultimate version of this story.