It will never be the same as the original. This seems to be the motto whenever another live action remake comes out of Disney studios. A quick look at the previous remakes, the consensus seems to be that Cinderella and The Jungle Book are highly praised in their remakes; however, there are the Maleficents, Beauty and the Beasts, Alice in Wonderlands, and Dumbos of the remake world that seriously drag down the live-action remake argument. (Side note: Christopher Robin was not a remake but it was a fabulous story in and of itself).
So here we go with another live action remake - Aladdin. While we already did our audio review, I wanted to make a few points that were better thought through in this format. Will anyone read - most likely not but for those of you who stumbled across this, I appreciate you. First, I feel like there are a few things that the movie should be commended for, which I think was missing from our podcast review. I’m happy the cast appropriately reflected the nationality of where fictional Agrabah was set - something which cannot be said for the voice cast in the original. For the most part, the casting was incredible and made the movie really come to life. Beyond that, I appreciated how they kept Jasmine out of the bikini-esque top and in actual clothes that would not undermine her character’s motivations to be taken seriously in the movie. While I’m not saying she can’t wear whatever she wants, I believe there would have been some eye-rolling comments regarding her desire to be taken seriously while at the same time revealing her midsection. They also didn’t shy away from showcasing some Bollywood level dance sequences, though I would definitely argue it maybe went a bit too far - as the movie acknowledges as well. And I have to call out the colors of the movie - absolutely lovely jewel tones that popped, which is a significant juxtaposition to Burton’s films and even the muted Beauty and the Beast.
In the above areas, I think the movie excelled. I also think there were some amazing moments between characters that were not straight from the original that really made for some good belly laughs. I have to commend Delia’s character overall - played by the hysterical Nasim Pedrad - because she didn’t feel like an extra addition and her comic relief was perfect when paired with Smith’s Genie character. The interactions between Pedrad and Smith’s characters made for some of the best moments, even in terms of romantic moments. And, to briefly mention the Genie, I think Smith did an amazing job making the Genie his own. It was a large footprint to step in to, but I think he showed that he can really make any roll his own. We all knew he would never be what Robin Williams was, but I’m glad he didn’t try and really put his own spin on things, from the songs to the jokes. Unfortunately, Aladdin felt somewhat static but Jasmine had the fiery spark we loved in our princess even from the animated movie. So, overall, the cast was enjoyable.
I thought there were some weaknesses which, while they didn’t ruin the movie for me, they will probably keep it off the same list as The Jungle Book. I don’t think the movie truly succeeded in its attempt to provide a more in depth storyline for Jasmine. There was a lot of telling - telling that she was locked away, telling that her mother was killed, telling that she wanted to be more than a wife - than there was showing. It seemed that, while the movie wanted her to have that same “I’m not a prize to be won” feel from the original, it didn’t quite land the “I’m trained enough to be Sultan” vibe it reached for. This led to an odd song that didn’t quite seem to match the tone that surrounded the rest of the movie, since it had to constantly tie back to the original where Jasmine’s ultimate goals were slightly different. The song’s message was about Jasmine not being silent; however, the movie didn’t really seem to constantly pound this point home. Her father didn’t tell her constantly to hush and I believe only Jafar mentions that she should be seen and not heard once. But the reprise in particular really made a huge pause moment in the movie that didn’t seem earned, beyond the crazy visuals and time stopping moments, and took more than a few of the viewers out of the movie.
Another area of disappointment was definitely the villain. While I thought the extra bit they included about how Jafar was once a thief but climbed his way to the top was well done - a very Javert from Les Miserables moment - he just didn’t seem to be a threat. The character didn’t seem creepy or villainous enough - just more of a meh threat that really didn’t have an impact on the kingdom at all. It also made the finale seem less impactful since the villain didn’t really threaten the livelihood of anyone - especially the citizens that Jasmine continually mentioned as the reason for having a good leader. Becoming an all powerful sorcerer also didn’t seem to up the ante; however, the visual of him as a genie did look pretty cool. And, of course, Alan Tudyck was underutilized, reducing him to Hei Hei but with the ability to say some really great one-liners.
So, overall, while I think the movie was good and I would probably watch it again with someone who hasn’t seen it, I wouldn’t give it the same praise that I have given to The Jungle Book or Christopher Robin. I wish I could sing it higher praises because I feel that there were a lot of risks taken here that make it deserve some recognition. I just wish that these remakes wouldn’t stay so married to the original and should feel more confident to take greater risks. And I don’t even know if their hands are tied by higher forces that be. Overall, a good film but just missed that great mark that would have really impressed.