Disney remaking their loose adaptations of classic fairy tales and folklore is their newest confusing trend, and as a behemoth of a corporation they’ll keep churning them out. Because they know audiences will go see them. “Aladdin” banks heavily on the nostalgia of the nineties much like previous Disney efforts. And like previous Disney remakes, “Aladdin” is fine. It’s just fine. I’ve yet to see a Disney live action remake that has completely outshone their original effort; compared to “The Lion King,” Guy Ritchie’s remake is mediocre, time filling fodder and that’s about the best compliment I can give it.
Following the 1992 premise of the animated film, Aladdin is a street urchin in the fictional city of Agrabah who steals to survive poverty. While escaping the authorities one day he comes across Princess Jasmine. Jasmine dreams of exploring the world and taking over for her father, the Sultan, who is insistent on leaving his throne to a man. Meanwhile his Vizir Jafar wants the Genie’s lamp from a sacred cave, which he wants to use to grant him omnipotence in order to become Sultan and rule the land. When Aladdin accidentally unleashes the Genie, he uses the powers of the being to help him win the heart of the princess.
Guy Ritchie used to be a director that was basically carving out his own niche in modern film, but lately has become something of a journeyman director like Jon Favreau. That problem is that Ritchie never quite clicks in to the family friendly source material, instead dialing down on much of the bright colors and fantasy based elements of the narrative. Instead it’s all toned down in exchange of a much more stern and less innocent romance that Will Smith overshadows. That’s not much of a fault by Smith, as he’s the only element in “Aladdin” that seems to want to conjure up the sense of adventure and awe that we had with the 1992 animated film. Smith is solid as this new iteration of the Genie.
While he can’t even remotely hold a candle to Robin Williams’ original character, Smith aims for just memorable enough to keep you focused on him, and it works. “Aladdin” seems to want to re-think the entire original film, while also sticking to the status quo and following the original movie by the numbers. Ritchie greatly emphasizes the Bollywood influence, while also remolding characters like Jasmine and the Sultan with new motivations and more interesting personalities. This works to the film’s advantage, but then Ritchie just dives back in to staging the same musical numbers from the 1992 film, giving us beat by beat action scenes including Aladdin’s “One Jump” and his journey through the dreaded cave.
All things considered, the performances are fine, especially Naomi Scott who makes Jasmine her own, and garners a hell of a singing voice. While it’s wholly unspectacular, Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin” is just an okay movie. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I didn’t hate it like I did “The Lion King.” Disney sadly doesn’t seem to be interested in making a big effort with re-thinking their classics, because hell, it’ll make money regardless. And there are so many more remakes in the pipeline. Goody.
The new edition from Disney comes with the 4K Edition, the Blu-ray edition, and a digital copy of the film. All bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc. Featured is Aladdin’s Video Journal: A New Fantastic Point of View, an eleven minute collection of phone videos star Mena Massoud took on the set of the film. There’s the Deleted Song “Desert Moon” introduced by Alan Menken, who also shows us where it was cut from. Guy Ritchie: A Cinematic Genie is a five minute discussion with director Guy Ritchie, who explains how he was driven by wanting to make movies his family can see.
There is a ton of behind the scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew about Ritchie’s work and what he brought to the table, in “shaking things up.” A Friend Like Genie is a four minute discussion with co-star Will Smith who explains how it was “terrifying” to take on the role (He explains that he considers Robin Williams’ performance one of the greatest animated performances of all time), and explains how he wondered if there was any meat left on the bone to add to the role. There are ten minutes of Deleted Scenes, and three music videos: “Speechless” by Naomi Scott, “A Whole New World” by Zayn and Zhavia Ward, and “A Whole New World” (“Un Mundo Ideal”) by Zayn and Becky G. Finally there are two minutes of Bloopers.