Beth's Blockbuster Blog - Aladdin
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we're getting sick of the Disney live-action films at this point. Personally, after the disappointment that was Beauty and the Beast, I hopped off the hype train and looked at the upcoming collection of releases with a heavy sigh. Especially because Aladdin is my personal favorite out of the Disney renaissance films. But I can say that this film impressed me.
First off, really great casting choices were made for Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie. Mena Massoud pulls off the cheeky charisma charm that is the plucky street rat Aladdin, and very rarely needs auto-tune when singing (Looking at you Emma Watson). He has great chemistry with Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and Genie (Will Smith).
Speaking of Smith, the expectations around his performance as Genie were unbelievably high, but besides when he opens his mouth to sing, he definitely exceeded them. Rather than try to recreate Robin Williams' iconic performance, he made the character his own, working to put his spin on the iconic moments. Smith isn't the greatest singer, so his vocal performances are weak, but outside of that he was phenomenal.
Scott on the other hand felt weak in comparison to the two. The addition of Jasmine's handmaiden Dalia takes away from the more fun elements of Jasmine and turns her into a typical "strong female protagonist without a personality besides being strong." Jasmine is now turned into a princess who doesn't just want to not be a princess, but also wants to just be ruler by herself, not underneath another man. This would be a more nuanced take if it wasn't for the fact that all of Disney's female protagonists in the recent years have been in the same vein. However, Scott is a phenomenal singer and the addition of the song Speechless allows Scott to get her own solo performance.
The real disappointment is in Marwan Kenzari's performance as Jafar. Jafar has always been one of Disney's top villains, but in this film he feels like a man still trying to figure out what he wants to do for sure. He doesn't feel evil, he feels like an anti-hero, which isn't the case because Jafar has always had impure intentions.
Also questionable are the effects. Although it was the most concerning part of the previews, the Genie effect looks decent and well executed. On the other hand, things like the magic carpet rides, panning shots of Agrabah and the disappearing effect in the reprise of Speechless look cheap. With a nearly 200 million dollar budget, it should be expected that the special effects would be higher quality.
It's fair to say that this film was never going to live up to the original, but it might just be the best remake yet. It makes justified changes to the original while staying true to the original themes of it. Now let's hope Disney does the same for The Lion King in a few weeks. So rub that lamp and happy watching!