Swanner: A young street rat frees a genie from an old lamp. Once freed, the genie grants him three wishes. Following in the success of the live action The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, Disney now gives the 1991 animated film Aladdin a big screen live action reboot. The two big questions here are can Will Smith fill the shoes of Robin William’s genie and why is Guy Ritchie, a filmmaker known for his crime action films directing this family musical.
Judd: I’m not a Disney purist, and I haven’t seen the original since the last century on a VHS tape, so I’m able to look at this Aladdin for what it is, as it stands, and not what it was and/or should have been. I have no idea who made a better genie Williams or Smith, but I will say that I was disappointed in the quality of Smith’s voice – as well as the voices of most of the performers. For songs that have become standards and a show that has made its way onto Broadway, I was expecting better singers. As far as Guy Ritchie’s direction, I think Aladdin makes up for some of his more recent mistakes.
Swanner: I was surprised with Smith’s voice too, especially on the opening number Arabian Nights. I also was surprised with a lot of the acting. Up until Smith shows up, it was all pretty terrible. Once there, the genie sets the pace and the shows works from there on. What does work are the sets and costumes. It’s beautiful and worth the cost. I also liked the addition of Jasmine’s song Speechless and Naomi Scott gives a strong girl power rendition. Answering my first question, Will Smith doesn’t try to imitate Robin Williams’ and really shines in the film. Since he was entertaining, it made the rough spots palatable.
Judd: The movie has a very “Disney Channel” feel to it, and it looked cheap – though it obviously was not. Much of that has to do with the fact that the movie was shot for a 3D experience, and we saw it in 2D, which made everything overly bright and lacking texture. Cheap would also describe Aladdin’s wig, but now I’m just being picky. I agree that the movie shines in the large set pieces, with the greatest spectacle coming from the Prince Ali number, which would have been amazing in 3D. However, I felt that Jasmine’s “Speechless” felt tacked on and unnecessary. I know they were going for the Disney Princess Girl Power Moment™, but the movie isn’t about her, which is evident in the title alone. One subtle twist that was very Ritchie is that Aladdin is a parkour expert and dashes about Agrabah with gymnastic athleticism that is borderline ridiculous, but I thought worked.
Swanner: Answering my second question, I really have to blame Ritchie for what doesn’t work here, but then someone did hired him to write and direct so maybe the the fault goes higher. I’m not sure what someone thought Ritchie would bring to the film, since none of his style was anywhere to be seen. By the way, Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar was definitely Disney Channel acting. Was the film entertaining? Sure, but it just wasn’t very good.
Judd: I want to disagree that Ritchie is as fault, but better performances could have been coaxed out of the actors – particularly Kenzari – and the movie should have felt bigger and grander than it was. You’ve convinced me that Aladdin adds to Ritchie’s growing pile of not quite good enough.
Swanner: 2 ½ stars
Judd: 2 ½ stars