These Disney live-action remakes are more effective when they don’t tell the exact same story that the animated version told. “Beauty and the Beast” was essentially the same thing, whereas “Maleficent” told us a familiar story but from a different point of view. The new “Aladdin” is more like “Beauty and the Beast” — a shot-for-shot remake that does little to expand or improve the story we already know.
There’s no real need to cover any portion of the plot, since we all know what “Aladdin” is about. Here Aladdin is played by the congenial Mena Massoud. He’s charming, affecting and does an overall fine job with the part.
One of the best parts of this new film is Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott. Jasmine has been given much more to do here. Her character has been fleshed out into someone who isn’t just a love interest. She even gets a couple musical numbers. Her songs are jarring compared to the iconic songs of the original. They’re decent songs, but they’re pop songs and they don’t seem to fit with the rest of the memorable soundtrack.
Jasmine’s powerful song “Speechless” is a highlight of her character arc. Always being told by men, mostly Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), to be seen and not heard, Jasmine gets her revenge with “Speechless.” As she launches into the song all the men around her melt away like Thanos just snapped his fingers. A not-so-subtle tearing down the patriarchy number that is quite moving.
Will Smith, as the Genie, is something that most people are apprehensive about. It goes without saying that whoever stepped into that role will always be playing second fiddle to Robin Williams’ performance. It’s simply a legendary voice-over performance that just can’t be topped.
Smith does his best. He’s fine in the role. At first his presence feels a bit forced, but once the movie gets going, it’s easy to accept him. There are times where he stands out as an individual attempting to make this character his own and it shows. For the most part, it’s hard not to continually think about Williams as Smith delivers some of the same famous lines.
This new “Aladdin” clocks in at two hours, a whole 30 minutes longer than the original. Besides a couple new songs for Jasmine, it’s hard to tell where all this extra time is spent since much of it is the same as the first.
“Aladdin” was directed by Guy Ritchie. Yes, the same Guy Ritchie who directed “Snatch” and the “Sherlock Holmes” movies. Besides a couple Ritchie-patented camera movements, it’s impossible to tell that he’s the one behind the camera. The dialogue certainly isn’t the fast-paced, witty dialogue we’ve come to expect from Ritchie, but that’s because he’s working within immovable constraints of the source material.
At times it’s campy fun. Other times you find yourself wondering what the point of the movie is. The new “Aladdin” exists as an okay remake that attempts to do some new stuff, but in the end just feels a little unnecessary.