Adventure Aladdin

Review: ‘Aladdin’ Conjures Up a Whole New World for Fans of the Animated Original

May 22, 2019Ben MK

When it comes to Disney's most popular animated films, Aladdin ranks right up there alongside The Lion King. But while both movies are getting the live-action treatment this year, only one can boast that it has Will Smith as a blue genie.

In director Guy Ritchie's lavish reimagining of the 1992 animated classic, Smith takes on the role first made famous by Robin Williams, playing a genie who has been trapped in a magic lamp for millennia. Entombed atop a mountain of glittering treasure buried deep within the mystical Cave of Wonders, Genie's sole desire is to be set free from his cramped, brass prison. But there's just one catch; only someone whose worth lies far within — a diamond in the rough, as it were — can set foot inside the cave to retrieve the lamp in the first place.

Enter Aladdin (Mena Massoud), an orphan with a talent for thievery and a thorn in the sides of the merchants of Agrabah. With his monkey and partner-in-crime Abu eagerly perched atop his shoulder, Aladdin spends his days dashing through the city's marketplace evading the palace guards. Yet he longs for people to see him as more than just a "street rat," not realizing that a chance encounter with the headstrong Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) — who herself longs to be more than just a trophy for a prince — is about to transform his destiny.

As with Disney's previous live-action adaptations like Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, what follows hews fairly closely to the animated version, albeit with slight tweaks here and there. In this case, Ritchie and co-writer John August have expanded on the basic story of the original and added a couple of noteworthy and entertaining twists, while the actors — especially Navid Negahban as Jasmine's father, the Sultan, and Marwan Kenzari as the Sultan's scheming vizier, Jafar — have done commendable jobs turning in performances that set their portrayals apart from their animated counterparts.

Song-wise, the film also stands up nicely against the original, with Alan Menken reprising his role as composer and Smith, Massoud and Scott each able to hold their own in lively new renditions of songs like "Arabian Nights," "One Jump Ahead," "Friend Like Me" and, of course, "A Whole New World." Scott even gets to belt out a brand new track titled "Speechless," but while the song itself is perfectly fine and goes hand-in-hand with Jasmine's character arc, some viewers may find it a bit too heavy-handed or on-the-nose in delivering its message.

Ultimately, however, none of the movie's shortcomings — not even the genie visual effects, which seem to wander into the uncanny valley from time to time — are enough to detract from making the result just as enjoyable as the animated version. Whether it's the music or the production and costume design, this 2019 Aladdin proves to be just as charming as its predecessor was 27 years ago. And when you consider the high standard set by the original, that's quite the magical achievement in and of itself.

Aladdin releases May 23rd, 2019 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for some action/peril. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 8 min.

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