28th May2019

‘Aladdin’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Jordan A. Nash, Amir Boutrous, Numan Acar, Taliyah Blair, Aubrey Lin | Written by Guy Ritchie, John August | Directed by Guy Ritchie

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Aladdin is directed by Guy Ritchie and is the 2019 live-action remake of the same 1992 Disney property of the same name, directed by duo Ron Clements and John Musker. Aladdin has had a troubling route onto the screen more so than its live-action companions such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast or even Dumbo for that matter due to one inexplicable reason. That of course began with the casting of Will Smith as the Genie, but it didn’t end there as the controversy soared when the first snippet of footage was released, showing a distinctly bulkier and vivid version of such a beloved character. Leading to a cluster fuck of vile hatred on the internet, but what’s new?

After watching Ritchie’s Aladdin – ironically enough – Will Smith or the Genie, for that matter, is far from the films biggest problem, if even a problem at all. In fact, Smith is probably a highlight of a picture that slugs with a largely bloated structure. Especially that of the opening act that goes on forever before it kicks into gear, not the biggest issue if the film isn’t affected by such as long if restrained in terms of running time, but this is Disney and it isn’t. Considering the original animation is a slight slick ninety minutes in length and this has a whopping forty extra minutes of the story, ultimately it begins to race against time throughout. A battle the film will always lose and face the consequence for. Made stranger is the fact that the added included footage doesn’t add upon the quality nor do the audience actually given anything fresh or interesting. For one, we’re treated to a strange inclusion of Billy Magnussen who is horribly miscast and makes the film cringe-worthy with every spoken word he conveys, made worse is that he simply disappears when the film doesn’t know what to do with him.

That’s pretty much the description of Aladdin in general. It doesn’t really know what to do with anything it has up its sleeve. Partly Ritchie’s fault and the writing with a screenplay from John August and Ritchie. The combination is just frustrating because visually the film is at times flawless. It looks stunning with a beautifully vivid and abstract flair with colour and has extraordinarily warm life to it. Even then we don’t have any time to explore it because the film rushes through. The writing doesn’t afford anyone aside from Naomi Scott’s Jasmine or Smith’s Genie the luxury of character arcs or depth.

It wouldn’t surprise you, i imagine, to reveal that its those two specific characters in particular that are the most interesting and compelling. Aside of the quite frankly horrific character design of the live action Genie that I personally can’t endorse, not because of Smith, much like the majority of silly film twitter but just how poorly designed such a character design is, Smith puts forward a great charismatic performance. Nothing more and nothing less, he’s pretty much just – good. He has decent material to work with and I’d be eagerly interested to see how much his material was improvised and ad-libbed. Nonetheless, he’s solid as such a character and to get paid $25 million dollars or more to sit in front of a green screen he showcases enough interest to evoke a sense of care in his work.

Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine is undoubtedly the highlight of the picture. Emotionally compelling with a terrific command of the screen. Scott puts forward a wonderful role filled with layers and strength. Her vocal performances are terrific and fill the auditorium with a true sense of empowerment. Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Marwan Kenzari as Jafar are sadly more than redundant. The latter is given nothing to do aside from hamming up every sequence he’s involved in. Theirs one, just one small snippet of depth that’s so rushed you’ll barely notice its appearance that relates any form of weight to his character. The former isn’t ready to lead a feature film in general, never mind a film for this magnitude. It was apparent that Disney struggled to last the lead here and after the fact, it’s clear why. Massoud has no screen presence and a very little charm. If not for the hard work from Naomi Scott the intended relationship between characters Aladdin and Jasmine would simply cease to exist.

Aladdin is in cinemas now.

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