‘Aladdin’ review: The same old world

Lacking in originality, the only magical thing about this live-action remake is Will Smith’s zany Genie

Disney has been treading on very thin ice with their factory line-up of live-action films, most that refuse to break the mould or take any risks from their earlier counterparts. Their latest, Aladdin, continues to attempt to revive nostalgia. Twenty-seven years ago, the original Aladdin became one of the most popular animated films to ever be made, usurped from its throne only in 1994 by The Lion King, which Disney is adapting soon. This process only seems to disinterest younger audiences — case in point: the failure of Dumbo — who have a whole new world of novel content. Inadvertently, the films end up tainting the ever-so-fond memories that we have all grown up with.

Though faithfully retold to oppressively sacrosanct levels, Guy Ritchie’s remake features some of the English director’s signature strokes. His sleight of hand with slick action flourishes in the cat-and-mouse chases, as Aladdin escapes the clutches of his pursuers. But it’s not enough to buoy the film’s drawbacks. Take for instance, what passed off as romantic in the 90s is now outright misogynist today. Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) cannot be the ruler of her city or marry the man of her choice. She must be seen and not heard. The feeble attempt to give her a feminist shot in the arm is a mere ‘Let It Go’-like song a la Frozen. The track, ‘Speechless’ is absolutely transparent, completely nullifying the character’s context.

Strangely, some of Ritchie’s supporting actors have a Middle-Eastern accent while others sport no affectation. Plus, how good can a musical really be when its numbers are excessively extravagant with garish costumes and hackneyed Bollywood choreography? Some of Aladdin’s beloved tracks — such as ‘A Whole New World’ — will perennially be evocative, but some of the additions lack the punch that a worthy earworm needs. What makes matters worse is when Abu the monkey shares better chemistry with a mute magic carpet instead of the two stars, Scott and Mena Massoud who plays the titular character. Aladdin’s biggest lure, over and above its sentimental lasso, is Will Smith as Genie. Though the actor might not be able to fill Robin Williams’ shoes (from the original), his wisecracks, swagger and one-liners are singularly entertaining, forcing drooping eyelids to remain open. Of note is Alan Stewart’s cinematography which soars with shots of arid deserts and balmy bazaars, capturing the sizzle of the fictional kingdom of Agrabah.

Since Disney is determined to continue on the live-action remake warpath, we can only hope they’ll do a better job with the upcoming The Lion King.

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