Ever since I heard Disney was remaking all of their animated classics into live action films, I greeted it with a mixture of emotions. That changed with the release of Cinderella, a film that somehow was better than the classic so many of us grew up on. Then came The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, and Beauty and the Beast. All of the sudden it looked like maybe they knew what they were doing, but some things just can’t be duplicated and what started off with promise soon looked like maybe they got lucky with the first few and that everything that glitters is not gold. So what happens when you throw a genie in the mix? Maybe Disney’s wish to capture the magic again will come true, but then again it may not be a whole new world after all .
Aladdin (Mena Massoud ) lives his life on the streets, where he steals and using his incredible ability to parkour through the city to live a pretty comfortable life. I mean sure he is not rich, but with his pet monkey Abu by his side he is rich in a different kind of way. Jasmine (Naomi Scott) is literally rich , as she is the princess, but she doesn’t like being coped up in the palace and she likes to slum with the people and explore the city. It is during one of these excursions that she runs into Aladdin and by the end of the day she knows that she has found someone special. Sadly things cannot work, as Aladdin is a street rat and Jasmine is royalty, but the Sultan’s most trusted advisor Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) has a plan that will help Aladdin catch the princess’s eye, at least that’s the story he sells to Aladdin. Jafar though has other plans as he seeks a lamp that will grant him three wishes and sends Aladdin to retrieve it. Aladdin is up to the challenge and is able to get the lamp for himself where he meets a genie (Will Smith) and discovers a friend like no one else. Soon wishes are being made, Jafar gets the lamp, and Aladdin and Jasmine win in the end, or in other words everyone gets their happy ending.
With the buildup to this release, I had my reservations about if the filmmakers could capture the lightning in a bottle like they did with the 1992 animated classic, and it seems my reservations were well placed. It was always going to be hard to replace Robin Williams, who made the first film everything it was. I mean it would be like baking bread and you had to do it without the yeast, sure you would have something, but it for sure wouldn’t be bread. Will Smith is just not Williams and while that is the biggest problem it is not the only one. The songs just don’t have the same beat as the original and for some reason writers John August and Guy Ritchie, the later also directing, decided to add over thirty minutes from the original movie. Most of those minutes are just longer scenes that fail to land, and a new music number that doesn’t fit with the established classics. It was always going to be hard to top the original film, but whether we like it or not, this Aladdin will be this generations version of the story, and for that I feel sad for them. If I had three wishes, I would wish for a couple nice things, but my last wish would be that this never got made, because we don’t always need the big, bright, shiny, expensive thing. Sometimes all that’s needed is that rare diamond in the rough.