Going into Guy Richie’s Aladdin I wasn’t sure what to expect. I never thought the original Aladdin was a masterpiece; Jasmine always seemed like an underwritten character and that leaves Aladdin as a sausage fest tale about the men who covet a princess. I know the message of Aladdin is to look past superficial details, but it seems like that’s one place they forgot to reflect on that message. Like a lot of Disney films, it also gives a very westernised approach to talking about diverse foreign culture.
But that doesn’t mean I hate the original Aladdin though; Robin Williams’ improv performance of the genie is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the bombastic energy the original gets from embracing animation whilst still telling a fully grounded story. That doesn’t give me much initial hope going into it though with these being the two notable things that this Aladdin would be without.
What we end up getting in this new Aladdin is a more vibrant and active world. The streets of Agrabah are bustling with life and a variety of colours. The costume design is much of a sendup of the minimal approach they were inspired by, the intricate details of each character’s wardrobe is a wonder for the eyes.
I ended up liking it more than I thought I would though. Will Smith does a pretty great job carrying Robin Williams’ legacy, whilst also defining the character for himself. Instead of the energetic dad from the original we’re treated to the at times smug but always hip and quipping version. The chemistry between Genie and Mena Massoud’s Aladdin being one the film’s highlights.
In a more Bollywood-esque style, the live action direction allows for hundreds of people to occupy every shot, giving way to several vibrant and expansive dance numbers. drawing inspiration from both Arabic roots and modern breakdancing. Even outside of live action set pieces there’s great energy and flow in the movement that leaves you enthralled and full of life
The musical numbers can get a bit distracting when you realise that all the singing is dubbed, (sorry if I just ruined that for you!) but the choreography is 100% legit and on full display.
In terms of bits that fall short, it’s pretty clear that film makers see the same problems I do with Jasmine in the film, even going as far to introduce a gal-pal for her. But the addition of another female character and the strides they make to try and give Jasmine more independence aren’t quite enough to make the feminist perspective fully realised.
Many of the elements the reboot addresses from the original are intended to make everything fuller. I know some of that comes from it being a longer film, but there doesn’t seem to be anything that the remake doesn’t address and further develop from its predecessor.
The story has heart and after looking past the small parts I took issue with, (most of it just being problems with the source material) I found Aladdin 2019 to be great experience. If you’ve seen the original then this is an excellent follow up, and if you haven’t it still stands strong all by itself.