Aladdin – Movie Review – A vivid and magical retelling.

Adapting their animated classics into live action films seems to be one of Disney’s current trends. The latest story to receive the live action treatment is Aladdin, which happens to be one of my favourite Disney films. The main story of this retelling follows what you most likely already know. Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a street thief who strives to win the love of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), after acquiring a magic lamp that holds a Genie (Will Smith) who can grant him three wishes.

Something that really works in this iteration is the cast. Mena Massoud brings all the charm and likability that you’d expect with his performance as Aladdin, but he also has a natural charisma that shines through and helps him make this role his own. The character relationships feel very organic. Through a series of interactions we get to witness Aladdin and Jasmine’s growing relationship flourish, in a manner that feels genuine and real. Naomi Scott does a fantastic job of bringing far more to Princess Jasmine when compared to her animated counterpart. She’s a fully developed character in her own right, and Naomi’s work along with the script succeeds with making Jasmine feel less of a caricature, and more of a human being. Mena and Naomi’s chemistry is very natural and it makes some of their earlier interactions feel genuinely heartwarming.

Now before this films release much had been said about Will Smith’s inclusion as The Genie. Many felt he was destined to fail, others had problems with the visual effects and overall there was a negative outlook on this aspect of the film. In my eyes Will seemed like a perfect choice and I can happily confirm that he proved me correct. Will has always had bucket loads of charisma and a knack for great comedic timing. Those natural traits he possess shine in this role. I even felt the visual effects utilised for character were great, he interacted with the other characters in some very creative ways. The effects artists really captured the spirit of Genie in the animated film, and helped transfer that through to Will’s performance visually. Nasim Pedrad portrays Jasmine’s handmaiden who mainly served as a source of comedic relief, but she was incorporated into the story well considering she is an entirely new character. I did like Marwan Kenzari’s performance as Jafar, but at times he didn’t feel as grounded as the other characters. That’s the only character that felt somewhat cartoon-like, although the political and war motivations they added to the character were a welcome change.

The production design is impressive across the board. Everything from the costumes to the hair and make up were wonderfully done. I also felt the visual effects were often vivid and vibrant, which helped make this magical tale spring to life on the screen. Guy Ritchie is at the helm and he handled the task of adapting this animated favourite very well. He seemed somewhat restrained from utilising his signature directing methods, which I am glad for because I don’t think that would’ve worked, if he had succumbed to his typical traits. There were a few moments where he did show hints of his usual style, and these moments instantly felt out of place. He made a few strange directorial choices, using slow motion at bizarre times, but aside from that it was directed rather competently.

What truly surprised me were the musical elements. I was very impressed, and the majority of them were much more grand in scope than I had expected. Will Smith’s physical performance was tremendous during his two main songs from the soundtrack. They truly made those musical numbers feel magical, and Will brought a palpable sense of energy to the proceedings through his physicality and vocals. The song ‘A Whole New World’ was beautifully done and it felt like a wonderful culmination, of the developing relationship between Aladdin and Jasmine up until that point.

I didn’t get on with all of the music though, there’s a couple new additions to the soundtrack and they either felt forgettable or unnecessary. Jasmine’s new song ‘Speechless’ didn’t feel as if it naturally fit within the story, so it’s inclusion felt out of place. I understand the message the song is trying to convey, but I feel that message would’ve been more impactful if it were delivered through the dialogue, not through lyrics.

The third act does have some issues as well. Whilst most of the new additions to the story work well to make everything feel more contemporary, there are a few changes to the original narrative in the third act, that felt a little too drawn out. The pacing definitely lost it’s way a little during the last act.

Overall Aladdin is a lot of fun. The visuals are vivid, the musical elements are impressive and the cast were extremely likeable. I would love for the third Aladdin film, King of Thieves to be adapted for a sequel. As for this one, if you love the animated film then you should definitely see it.

★ ★ ★ ★

(4 Stars out of 5)

T. Graham.

Aladdin – Starring Mena Massoud, Will Smith and Naomi Scott.

Directed by Guy Ritchie.

Now showing in cinemas.

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