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  • Alex Barnhill

Alex Reviews "Aladdin (2019)"

Let’s just not bury the lead here: the return to Agrabah for Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin” is nice for a nostalgia trip, but the movie adds almost nothing to the original. The plot is essentially the same as Disney’s animated classic of the same name, as a thief with a heart of gold falls for a princess during a chance encounter and utilizes a magic lamp with an over-the-top genie in order to enter her world as a faux prince while the evil vizier schemes to become the sultan. Please don’t get me wrong: I am a HUGE fan of the animated film and very much enjoyed this movie despite my expectations. The music hits the same way in most aspects with each actor contributing their own voice to the soundtrack, with a couple of new tracks used to change an angle for one of the main characters.

Each of the actors did a great job bringing their cartoon counterparts to life, with Will Smith having the biggest shoes to fill. Smartly, he did not try to recreate the magic that Robin Williams brought to The Genie by making the role his own outside of a few of his predecessor’s improvisational highpoints squeezed in. This is easily Smith’s most enjoyable work in over a decade, but that has a lot to do with the material and a director in Guy Ritchie who knows how to put his actors in their best position to succeed.

Naomi Scott (Power Rangers) as Jasmine comes across as the biggest showcase of talent from a vocal range, bringing the attitude and poise that made the character such a unique entity among the Disney princesses. In this version, I enjoyed her character arc, created to provide the character more depth while not sacrificing the attachment to prior iterations Mena Massoud (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) was likeable enough as the title character but felt awkward at times, even inconsistent as there seemed to be uncertainty over how to present him at times. Despite these odd expressions, there was a lot of the fun from the 1992 version in this one.

If there was one casting that was hard for me to follow, it was Marwan Kenzari (Murder on the Orient Express) as Jafar. He brings his best to all his scenes, but I had a hard time buying him as a threat to Aladdin. It may have something to do with his voice being distinctly higher than the original Jafar, but this version came across whinier and less charismatic.

Some of the charm of “Aladdin” is lost in the live-action, where many of the more engaging characters do not translate. It is predictable that this falls to the animals and the magic carpet as key moments still ring true in the picture even though there was a claustrophobic feel to many of the sets. Many shots did no favors to the locations as they seemed to only have one working set for the entire city and three for the entire palace, kind of defeating the purpose of songs like the hit “A Whole New World,” making it seem like they only traveled about two miles in front a green screen versus the grandiose adventure the song alludes to in its lyrics.

Despite all of the shortcomings and a blue Will Smith, it is a fun trip down Memory Lane for anyone who is willing to forgive some issues to experience a “new” take on an old favorite.

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