Aladdin (2019) <><>

If you thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 live action Beauty and the Beast, then you may enjoy this Aladdin remake more than me. Naomi Scott as princess Jasmine is fantastic; she is far and away the best singer in this movie. Mena Massoud is Aladdin and can't sing. From the opening number, Arabina Nights, you know Mena isn't going to perform at the level he needs to. Grammy award winner Will Smith is forced to sing in a style he is not accustomed to and it shows. While Aladdin isn't a musical, the musical numbers are a big part of the film and everything that isn't Jasmine led is bad.


The movie does have some good updates to the animated version. Arabian Nights has been updated to not include lyrics about cutting off people's ears. The cast is mostly people of South West Asian decent, a big improvement over an all white cast. Jasmine is a smart and clever woman who questions the out of date patriarchy. Her resistance isn't over the top and garners the fans support.


It is hard to pin down exactly where this movie is taking place; it is a port city. The sets still feel a little lost in a generic western view of South West Asia/Northern Africa. The credits dance number is 100% Bollywood including the 'light-bulb' move. This felt incredibly out of place since nothing in the movie to that point, except Raj the tiger, seemed to be Indian. That scene alone makes the movie feel more whitewashed than it probably is.


Guy Ritchie directed this movie. I enjoyed most of Guy Ritchie's previous work, but he seemed like an odd choice for Aladdin. Perhaps fighting scenes and dance numbers aren't too different? Ritchie chose to use a time shifting technique in some of the fight, chase, and dance scenes. It bugged me a lot because of how disjointed it made the movie feel. All of the sudden there is some blur and Aladdin is moving too fast or too slow; this isn't Matrix style 'bullet-time'. It had no benefit and the movie is worse for it.This maybe most apparent the first time Aladdin parkours around the palace at night. The time change made the CGI even more obvious; the Disney owned MCU does CGI just fine, so why can't Disney?


Speaking of CGI, blue Genie was done fairly well. You can't do all of the cartoon antics form the original with half of a human, but what they did do was fine. Will Smith isn't as funny as Robin Williams was in the original. He splits the movie between blue legless Genie and human with legs Genie. In human form he is a little overly awkward, but 1000 years in a lamp will do that to anyone. Will Smith has shown plenty of sarcasm, think Bad Boys, but he doesn't show that side in this movie where it is desperately needed. There is an element of queerness in the original Genie portrayal that is strikingly missing; this is the biggest let down about Genie.


The movie started with Aladdin singing poorly and I quickly noticed the motion blur. This was a bad setup for the movie and left me with a bad taste from the get-go. Jasmine was a pleasant surprise that lifted my spirits a little only to be damped out by Aladdin and Genie continuing to sing poorly. Visually the movie was very colorful, but it wasn't grounded in one part of South West Asia like it should have been. People are going to keep paying to see these remakes and Disney is going to keep making them. Hopefully Disney figures out how to get the formula right with human-centric remakes sooner rather than later.

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©2019 by Sean Whitehurst