Cast:Disney’s Aladdin Movie Review
Screenplay:: John August, Guy Ritchie
Editor:: James Herbert
Music:: Alan Menken
Cinematography:: Alan Stewart
Director:: Guy Ritchie
Producers:: Dan Lin, Jonathan Elrich
Production Company:: Walt Disney Pictures
Whenever you speak about Aladdin, our or mostly the reviewer’s memory, jogs back to Indian takes on Arabian Nights, the original books that had Aladdin and Genie characters as mythological adventurers from Middle East Deserts, Allauddin-Adbutha Dweepam (ANR), Pathala Bhairavi (most of the story is indeed taken from Arabian Nights for some changes), Allauddinum Albhutha Vilakkum (Kamal Hassan’s Malayalam and Tamil film). These stories felt more magical and true to source material when I saw (reviewer refers to him) them on TV as a kid. I rooted for ANR, NTR and Kamal Hassan to be the winners.
When the cartoons came out in Telugu, English, Tamil and Hindi, I used to watch them all and have a good laugh with the slapstick comedy. Then saw, Disney’s animation classic Aladdin with Robin Williams Genie. All of them seemed enjoyable. Pathalabhairavi seemed the best possible Indianized version of the story and desirably well executed of all the Live-action versions. Did see Hindi Live action Television series of Aladdin but they were too Over the Top for me to be rooting for them and they had bad writing too. May be a good memory for any 90’s or early 2000’s kids from North but being from South, not really my cup of tea.
All this explanation is to how nostalgic it was for me, the critic or reviewer, to watch the film at a theatre in live-action in 2019 as a grown up. The problem is the same nostalgia kills the film. Yes, the budget is visible, the songs from original work well, new songs are fairly okay but the story, screenplay and performances, No, they don’t hold up to the Disney’s animation or any Indian Live-Action versions, which may not be concern for people who don’t know about them, but it is for me, kindly bare with me!
Story is simple but they are additions and character twists that try to present the classic material in a new light for the new generation but they don’t seem to be accurate to the time the story is set in. Writers could have worked more on how the characters can be realistic and adventurous as well. They just made it all seem like these directions had to be taken for Millennials to connect. And there is lot of stretch in the story to increase the length of the film. When you see, Indian old films, even though they do stretch the story, they all try to make it in a fun way and keep it all grounded and close to formula in films that worked at the time.
That kind of twist could have been given to the Live-action remake of the English film too, but the makers wanted to replicate the Animation version too much than really thinking about how to make it all grounded yet magical. It just seemed like they want Millennials to fall in love like the 90’s kids did with similar material but with better CGI. But the VFX looks more rushed than the animation and the magical world of surrealism doesn’t really look appropriate too.
When it comes to performances, Will Smith is charismatic and he could bear the load on him as Genie but Robin Williams in an animation could go to places where you feel like he did not care for realism at all. And he made it all great too. In comparison, Will Smith doesn’t hold up but he is good in his own right. Plot twists added to original content of the boy being a street-rat (thief and economically not well-off), girl being a princess and Sultan being manipulated, like Jasmine (Naomi Scott) being more rebellious and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) being more adventurous did not really sit with the original.
Even Naomi Scott, Mena Massoud couldn’t rise above the script even though within it, they can be categorized as good. The major problem is with Jafar played by Marwan Kenzari, the actor doesn’t look menacing or forceful in the role. And even the character design isn’t that great. Guy Ritchie did not seem to really have all the answers to questions posed by the challenge. Even though he did bring his own kind of filmmaking that made him many fans, he couldn’t convincingly tell the magical tale of Agrabah.
His direction can be criticized as the biggest problem with the movie. He could have been so charismatic and fast paced with his narration and more importantly, eye-ball grabbing adventurous with the characters, their designs and sets. Rather he chose to more loyal to the animation which feels like a mere shot-to-shot reproduction at times. Still, he did not just wreck the movie and did give it moments where we can enjoy. May be for people without any nostalgic attachments it could appeal slightly better but if you’re a fan you’re bound to be disappointed!