Review: ALADDIN – a whole not-so-new world

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Title: Aladdin
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott. Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen
Runtime: 2 hr 8 mins

What It Is:  A live action remake of the Oscar winning (for Best Original Score, and Best Original Song) of the 1992 Disney animated movie of the same name. This movie, like the animated version before it, is based on the classic Arabic folktale Aladdin’s Lamp from One Thousand and One Nights. This version is directed by Guy Ritchie (who also co-wrote the movie with John August). As with the animated version, the story is about a street urchin named Aladdin who must find a magical lamp which contains a Genie for Jafar.

What We Think:   As a fan of Guy Ritchie’s films (Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels is one of my favorites), I was looking forward to this movie. The cast including Will Smith as the Genie, and Alan Tudyk as Iago on paper seemed to be good choices. I can’t speak too much of Mena Massoud (Aladdin) or Naomi Scott (Jasmine) as I wasn’t too familiar with their work before this movie.

All that being said, I thought the movie failed in a few areas, including the singing. Naomi wasn’t that great of a singer, and for a movie that is primarily a musical, that was an issue. Will Smith, while he is a good rapper, was not good for this role, I felt – to give him his due, it’s hard to compete with Robin Williams‘ Genie and Smith gave it a good shot without trying to imitate Robin’s classic performance.

For those of you who were fans of the animated movie, a few songs from that appear in this version including ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘A Whole New World’ which was one of the few saving graces for the movie. Disney knows how to do musicals and not including either song would have been a horrible mistake.

The score by Disney veteran Alan Menken was as terrific as one would expect from a multiple Oscar Winner, and the costumes and cinematography were outstanding.

The CGI in the film was terrific, from the scenes flying above Agrabah, to the many different animals, as one would expect from Industrial Light and Magic.

The film itself was well paced throughout without any scenes where one would get bored, and Guy Ritchie did a good job directing and writing a remake of one of Disney’s modern animated classics.

Our Grade:  C+. Disney has been hit or miss when it comes to their live action movies based on animated properties, but this one I felt should have stayed in the cave for One Thousand and One more nights. The movie tries hard to copy the magic from the animated version, but in the end just can’t.

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