Aladdin

by Hans A. Carpenter

hans@freeburgtribune.com

Release Date: May 24

MPAA: PG

Director: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, and Naomi Scott

Mister Marquee Says: Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.

Number: 4/5

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a poor street thief who falls for the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). He gets an opportunity to change his lot in life when he finds a magic lamp that releases a Genie (Will Smith) who grants Aladdin three wishes. Truth be told, I enjoyed the original Aladdin as a kid, but I was never attached to the Genie the way everyone else was. I always found him irritating. To each their own, but Robin Williams’ schtick has never done much for me. I have no emotional attachment to that Genie, but I know most people do. Will Smith does Will Smith, he doesn’t try to be Robin Williams. I thought it worked, but your results will vary.

Genie gets a romantic subplot this time around. While that section is a bit undercooked, it would have been nice to explore his loneliness a bit further. I did like the attempt to draw parallels between Jafar and Aladdin/Jasmine, even if those comparisons were buried under the nostalgia-driven Disney-ness of the whole affair. Jafar is a former street rat who is trapped in his place in life until he fights his way off of the streets. He is a master thief, like Aladdin. Jafar also worked his way up to Vizier (maybe with the help of his evil staff, but still), but no matter what he does, no matter how hard he works, he can never be Sultan because he wasn’t born royal, just like Jasmine can’t be sultan because she wasn’t born a man.

The music is good, as you would imagine, and the cast is charming. The production values are excellent. Everything is there, but Aladdin, like Beauty and the Beast, is just too similar. Aladdin makes much more of an attempt to differentiate itself than Beauty and the Beast, which was pretty much a needless shot-for-shot remake of the cartoon, but the unwillingness to fully commit to change is still really frustrating. Ultimately, Aladdin is hampered by its predecessor much in the way the other Disney live action versions have been.

Fans of the original will compare the two. This film is torn between cynical corporate nostalgia and trying to do something different. It feels like this film is ready to go in new and exciting directions from time to time, but then remembers it exists to be a cover tune cash grab and reverts back to the familiar. It’s an entertaining movie, maybe even better than the cartoon, but it was born in the shadow of that movie and only sticks a toe out into the sunlight.

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