Trying to fall in love with film again.

'Aladdin (2019)' isn't the BEST Disney remake but it certainly isn't the WORST

Aladdin (2019) - IMDbStory 

Aladdin is a young street living Agrabah with no one except his pet monkey Abu. After an encounter with the princess Jasmine, he finds himself in the employ of the Jafar, the royal vizier who plans on becoming sultan by getting his hands on a magic lamp. However, the lamp and the genie end up in Aladdin's hands.

This is one story that everyone is familiar with, either from the animated movie that was released in 1992 or the actual story from One Thousand and One Nights. This movie has the challenge of bringing something new to the table while honouring the original and it while it stumbles out of the gate, it does that by the end. It's witty, heartwarming and really cute.

Acting

In all honesty, I wasn't very excited when the cast was announced (which is usually the case with the live-action remakes). That isn't to say I thought the choices were bad, I was a little underwhelmed. However, the choice to go with actors that weren't in the public consciousness was a smart one. You focus more on the characters rather than the actors that play them, with the exception of Will Smith (but I'll get to that in a minute).

Mena Massoud plays Aladdin and is pitch perfect as the character. He captures the fun, carefree nature of the character while also being caring and gentle. He's incredibly likeable, a win when you spend 80% of the movie. I do have to say that he doesn't have the best singing voice which is evident when he is singing with other people.

Naomi Scott is brilliant as Princess Jasmine, the original character was a strong character but was still very much the love interest. Here she's layered and multi-dimensional. You spend a lot more time with her in this movie than you do in the original and because of that, you form a relationship with her. Naomi Scott is also an incredible singer if you've seen the Disney Channel original movie Lemonade Mouth (you should it's good) you'll already know this. Of all the actors in the movie, her voice stands out. She really shines when she performs. She also has great chemistry with Mena Massoud and because of that their relationship feels like it's growing organically. It feels like something their characters have earned.

Will Smith's casting of the genie was a very controversial one, as Robin Williams was pitch perfect as the character and there really is no one could replace him. That being said Will Smith was great as the genie. There were moments where it felt like he was trying to impersonate Robin Williams and those moments felt forced. There is a happy medium where he's paying homage to the character while bringing something new to the table and that's where I really resonated with the character. Overall I don't think anyone else could have done a better job than Will Smith. He's funny and over-the-top while also being contemplative and supportive of Aladdin.

All the supporting actors do a great job. I have to give credit to Marwan Kenzari and Nasim Pedrad who play Jafar and Dalia respectively, especially Marwan Knazari. While Jafar isn't a likeable character, you can understand where he's coming from (to a certain extent) and that makes him more compelling than your average Disney villain.

Writing/Direction

When it was announced that  Guy Ritchie would direct this movie, I thought it was a great choice and I still stand by that. Guy Ritchie is known for his stylistic direction and in this movie, it works. Especially during the 'One Jump Ahead' scene that involves a lot of parkour. Guy Ritchie does use his signature slo-mo, and even though it didn't add anything to the scene it was in, I'm not entirely mad at it.

The pacing in this movie is good. It has a runtime of 128 minutes and while I wouldn't say that's the perfect amount of time, you never feel as though the movie is dragging. This is due to Guy Ritchie's solid direction. There is a clear structure in the movie and it never tries to be more than it is.

Alan Stewart's cinematography is absolutely stunning. The scenes in the desert are breathtaking, and the film as a whole looks amazing. I don't get the opportunity to mention colour grading often and I get to here. The film as a whole looks vibrant. All the colours stand out without clashing which makes the film as a whole lively and aesthetically pleasing,

CGI/Set Design

A lot of this movie is CGI and it shows. While the CGI isn't bad, it is noticeable in some scenes which took me out of the film. It's mostly to do with the backgrounds rather than the main characters. The moments where the genie looks like a CGI version of Will Smith are incredibly distracting considering the fact that he's one of the most important characters in the movie, but they are few and far between.

The set design gets a 10 out of 10 from me. Agrabah looks like a real functional city rather than a collection of sets. It's obvious that the set and costume designers put a lot of thought into the look of the movie. Aladdin and Jasmine both have their iconic colours that are very reminiscent of their animated counterparts while looking updated and different at the same time.

Score/Soundtrack

Much like the live-action Beauty and the Beast, this movie is a musical and this is one area where the movie stumbles. Musicals like Beauty and the Beast work because the score transitions between the songs, but that doesn't really happen here. Whevener there is a song it feels a little clunky, especially at the beginning. As the movie goes on, the transitions get better but it took me a while to get over how awkward it felt at the beginning. However in defence of the movie, the score in the original isn't as iconic as Beauty and the Beast, so there was more groundwork to do here.

A lot of the original songs used in the original were used and reworked. Of all the songs in the movie, my favourites have to be Prince Ali and Friend like Me. Those are the ones that had me singing along while I watched the movie. 'A Whole New World' is THE song associated with Aladdin and the duet in this movie is good. While I don't think Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott's voices blend that well, the song still works as the two have great chemistry.

Bringing back Alan Menken to score the film was a brilliant idea. He worked on the original movie with Tim Rice and Howard Ashman, and having him work on this film brings the whole thing full circle. There is one new song that was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters who worked on La La Land and The Greatest Showman, called 'Speechless' and it's a beautiful song that shows off Naomi Scott's talent. I like the song a lot, however, its placement felt a little awkward which made the song as a whole fall flat. Its placement undercuts a dramatic moment and while I know what the filmmakers were going for, it didn't work.

My main gripe with the soundtrack is the attempt to urbanise it. It was a little jarring at first and felt unnecessary but the songs grew on me as the movie went on.

Overall Thoughts

When it comes to their live-action remakes, Disney is in a difficult position. If the movie is too different from the original when people argue that is changes something that is already great, to begin with, but if it's too similar, it can be argued that the live-action movie shouldn't. Disney is damned if they do, damned if they don't. this movie falls into the former category much like the live-action Beauty and the Beast. There are enough similarities to the original to keep its integrity while adding something different to the mythos.

Aladdin started off really shaky, the first 20 minutes felt choppy and the songs didn't flow as easily as they should have, but it does find its feet and once it does it becomes a really enjoyable and funny movie. It has that Disney magic that we were all expecting and left me with that warm fuzzy feeling.

All in all, I really enjoyed Aladdin, while it may not be the best live-action remake (that title sits with the Jungle Book) it isn’t the worst (that sits with Alice in Wonderland) and I had a great time watching it and would watch it again.


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