"a triumph, it essentially follows much of the same story beats from the 1992 classic, which I think works in its favour"
The live action adaptations of Disney classics has been met with varying reactions, and the latest animated Disney classic to receive the treatment is Aladdin, and it’s safe to say that they’ve stuck the landing on this. It's a beautiful adaptation from start to finish.
First off, I’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way, Aladdin was a tough one to adapt because of one particular character; Genie, which was expertly played by the late and great Robin Williams in the 1992 original, this time around, the part of Genie has been taken on by the infinitely likeable and phenomenally talented Will Smith and the worry was that he would do a carbon copy or caricature of what Williams did, and that would have been a mistake. Thankfully, and something I didn’t doubt, is that Smith makes Genie his own, leaning into his Music background in a similar fashion to how Williams leant into his Comedic background.
So for those familiar with the animated classic, the story of Aladdin is known, it is essentially a rags to riches story that follows the exploits of the titular Diamond in the Rough, a character that doesn’t seek power, he is just a good and charming street rat played wonderfully by relative newcomer Mena Massoud. His live changes when by chance he encounters Princess Jasmine.
Princess Jasmine is played beautifully by the extraordinarily talented Naomi Scott, this is an actress that I have always been impressed with, she’s a wonderful actress and is someone that I would like to see more from. Not only is her acting on point, but she is also an incredible singer with a standout for me being her powerful rendition of the new song Speechless, it’s incredible and her arc in the film is one that I think a lot of people will appreciate. Her chemistry with Mena’s Aladdin is believable to watch and thankfully she doesn’t take a back seat to the action unfolding.
I’m not familiar with the beloved stage musical, but it is nice to know that some elements from it have been included in the film, a stand out for me being the inclusion of Dalia, handmaiden to Jasmine played by the loveable Nasim Pedrad.
The film doesn’t work if the chemistry isn’t strong between Mena and Will and Mena and Naomi, the relationships are the central part to the film and as such give it a very strong foundation, even the relationship between Genie and Dalia was played beautifully, and added extra depth to proceedings.
There isn’t really anything that I didn’t like about Aladdin, I think they completely stuck the landing on this one, I would have liked Jafar played by Marwan Kenzari to be slightly older and a bit more menacing, in the film, Jafar is more of a moustache twirling villain, but I’m nit-picking at this point, Marwan is great in the role.
The supporting cast are great and round out the film nicely, especially Navid Negahban as Sultan, but the stand out from the supporting cast for me is Alan Tudyk as the voice of Iago, he’s an absolute treasure, and elevates an already strong film, expertly directed by Guy Ritchie, who also had a hand in writing this version.
The music, headed by the legendary Alan Menken, who returns to the music from the animated classic is wonderful, and adds another dimension to the film, as does the dancing, which has clearly been influenced by Bollywood, adding gravitas to the film.
The CGI is impeccable, something that Disney have down pat! The inclusion of Rajaj - Jasmine’s Tiger is something I believe they pulled off nicely, same with Abu - Aladdin’s Monkey and the Magic Carpet! Having known the story, throughout the film I had nostalgic and vivid memories of the animated classic, so when it came to the big set pieces I was just wondering how they'd pull it off, and they do.
One of the stand out complaints that I heard and read about when the trailer was released was the look of Will Smith’s Genie, this is another aspect that I thought they nailed, since I know that effects in trailers are very rarely the final version.
All in all, I would say that Disney’s Aladdin is a triumph, it essentially follows much of the same story beats from the 1992 classic, which I think works in its favour, yes it is a story we know, but by changing things subtly like they did with Cinderella and adding new things to make it its own and omitting things that work in animation but would fall flat in live action, Guy Ritchie and his creative team have produced a winner. I’d happily see the continuing adventures for Aladdin and Jasmine, like they did with the animated film, maybe bring in Aladdin’s long lost father, who knows, there is more story to mine from this beloved classic.