- 31 May 19
The beloved Disney tale gets the live action treatment. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith and Marwan Kenzari, Aladdin is in cinemas now.
“Like so many things, it is not what is outside but what is inside that counts,” noted the narrator in Disney’s animated classic, Aladdin. Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of the 1992 film was always going to be missing the vital magic ingredient: Robin Williams. The actor’s effervescent performance as the genie was what transformed Aladdin from a traditional underdog tale into a sparkling film full of warmth and wit. Williams’ tour de force of improvisation, pop culture references and sly in-jokes not only defined much of the movie, but also concealed where the animation was surprisingly plain.
Knowing that magic like that can’t be bottled (or lamped) twice, Ritchie has taken a different tack, casting Will Smith as the genie and relying on a cooler performance. At the same time, he has amped up the visual spectacle to evoke the same sense of wonder and awe. Smith’s hip-hop inspired rendition of ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’ inevitably feels flatter than Williams’, but Ritchie creates what the cartoon sometimes only implied: a magical, kaleidoscopic display of dancing, animals, fireworks and excess. What’s missing, in both the stagnant camera-work and familiar choreography, is some camp; one can’t help but imagine what swirling fun Baz Luhrmann and a Bollywood choreographer would have brought.
But Ritchie wisely leans into the action of Aladdin, introducing us to the charming orphan and pickpocket – and his kleptomaniac monkey Abu – as he ducks, dives and parkours around the bustling markets and flat roofs of Agrabah. Though it feels slightly fake, the production design is colourful and elaborate, making Agrabah a rainbow display of pigmented spices, flowers, tiles and textiles.
When Aladdin (Mena Massoud, wide-eyed and cheeky) discovers the genie in a brilliantly realised Cave Of Wonders, he is transformed into a prince to woo the headstrong and politically-minded Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott, thankfully given more to do to round out the cartoon’s unmotivated character). The leads’ romantic chemistry is slightly lacking, but the pacing and action are fun, and Aladdin undoubtedly has more energy and excitement than the simpering Cinderella and Beauty And The Beast remakes. Not a perfectly realised wish, but there’s some magic here.