It has been quite the bumpy road leading up to the release of Aladdin. Between questionable marketing and outrage over images of Will Smith as Genie, the live-action remake of the animated classic has experienced more controversy than a Kanye West rant on TMZ.
What might surprise most moviegoers this weekend is just how much the marketing failed this adaptation. While Aladdin is far from being the best live-action Disney film, it’s a film that deserved much better in the advertising department.
Now that the film is in theaters, prepare for,” a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view,” without the clumsy mistakes of Disney promoters.
Most audiences are already familiar with the magical story of Aladdin, the clever street thief who finds himself unwittingly in the presence of Princess Jasmine. Just like the original, they both bond over common experiences on both sides of the economic paradigm–Jasmine with royalty, Aladdin with poverty. This is due to the fact that they both were born in each world without a say in their situations.
As Aladdin pursues Jasmine, he finds himself unexpectedly in the path of Jafar, who aims to use him to obtain a magical lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Long story short, the situation goes haywire but he gets his very own magical genie out of it who is about to change his life forever.
The marketing failed this adaptation extremely by not conveying how fantastic the three main leads are in this movie– Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Will Smith. The biggest performance of all being Mena Massoud, who does a surprising job as the title character.
The trailers never confidently sold how charismatic he is in this role but instead spent most of the advertising budget undoing bad Genie promotions. Honestly, after seeing the film, Disney did the performer a huge disservice. He is fantastically charming as Aladdin.
Naomi Scott was born to play Jasmine. In this version, Jasmine is battling much more than her royal burdens with the screenplay adding a layer of gender politics to her struggle. Scott embodies the perfect amount of enchantment and toughness that will certainly inspire young women everywhere. Especially with the current state of Hollywood tackling harassment and misogyny with the #MeToo movement.
And of course, there’s the Genie, who had the internet on outrage overdrive just a few months ago. No one can replace Robin Williams, which made the announcement of a live-action remake of Aladdin a little scary. What is a magic carpet ride without a genie Robin Williams? But Will Smith didn’t disappoint.
If anything, he was the energy and life of this movie. Anytime he appeared onscreen, the film found a heartbeat that was as vibrant as the animated film. Robin Williams will always be the best but Smith did a decent job making the character his own.
Adding to this, Smith and Massoud have stellar chemistry. Imagine the movie Hitch only Hitch is blue and Massoud is the character of Kevin James seeking help to win a woman over. Just like the animated film, their dynamic is the backbone of the entire film and keeps viewers engaged.
As stated before, Aladdin is far from being a perfect adaptation. At times, it seems like director Guy Ritchie tried to follow the look and feel of the animated film to a fault. Because of this, some of the settings don’t feel as genuine due to an over-reliance on green screen.
It would have benefited the story if they executed more on location scenes in Jordan rather than a soundstage. Due to this decision, this live-action remake will not feel as timeless as the animated version.
Another issue with this take on Aladdin involves the clumsy execution of the villain Jafar. In no way is it a reflection on the actor Marwan Kenzari because he clearly was not meant for the role, however, he does his best considering being miscast.
That said, his entire section of the story suffered from pacing issues as well as an incoherent vision. Every time the story took a moment to handle the villain aspect, the film switched gears unevenly and it came across that Guy Ritchie did not know how to use the actor for the role.
Jafar should be ferocious, scary, and towering. In this movie, he is not. Which is unfortunate considering Disney did a fantastic job with inspired casting choices in the past like Idris Elba as Shere Khan and Luke Evans as Gaston.
Musically, this film hits the same chords as the original with the same catchy tunes and even a few new ditties that will get stuck in your head. The music adds a fun flavor to this live adaptation.
While the marketing was sloppy, it in no way reflected the true quality of the film. Even though parts of the movie could definitely have been better, overall Aladdin is still a worthwhile experience that will bring some of your favorite moments from the animated classic to life.
Aladdin is in theaters now.