I know you’ve seen the memes of the terrible looking Genie from the first trailer released from Aladdin (2019) and if your original thought was “thats gonna be terrible”, you were right! This travesty of a remake/reimagining/reinvention, whatever you want to call it, is just downright bad. Honestly, Will Smith was not all that bad in this film. If you took away Will Smith this movie would have been completely unwatchable, if you can even imagine that. The first 30 minutes before you get to the Genie are cringe inducing, badly written, and poorly acted. I don’t know about you, but I personally have yet to see a Guy Ritchie film that I have even liked since Snatch (2000). He’s Directed seven movies since and all of them have been pretty flat and uninspiring. To add insult to injury, you’ll have to sit through 2 hours and 8 minutes of a remake of a movie that was originally only 90 minutes long.
I’ll give Disney the benefit of the doubt because The Jungle Book (2016) remake was a fantastic film and it opened the door for these “live action” remakes to be produced. I think Disney has gotten a little too ahead of itself and have decided to green light a few too many classic movies that didn’t need a remake. Let’s hope The Lion King is more The Jungle Book and less Aladdin or Dumbo. Luckily The Lion King has Jon Favreau at the helm and not Guy Cringey.
Now that I’ve gotten some frustrations out, let’s talk about what worked in this movie. The Genie played by Will Smith, and Princess Jasmine played by Naomi Scott were the only saving graces for this film. Will Smith was quirky and charismatic but was still only about half as good as his predecessor, Robin Williams, in this role. (I mean is anyone really surprised by this at all? How could anyone ever even come close to the brilliance of Robin’s performance?) That being said, it was still watchable and I didn’t hate him as the Genie. What I did hate was the decision to throw in Hip Hop beats during the classic Aladdin tunes we know and love just because the Genie happens to be black now. It is beyond forced and serves no purpose to further the story. Oh, and they thought it would be a fun idea to have the Genie beatbox for some reason? Shit I forgot, this is the part where I’m supposed talk about the good things. Naomi Scott was a terrific Jasmine and provided depth and empowerment to this character. Her on screen chemistry with Mena Massoud felt real and the best part of the movie is the “Whole New World” sequence. (Are we surprised at all?) She also has a beautiful singing voice to boot. Namoi was the perfect casting for Princess Jasmine. Her performance is only hindered by a directorial decision to include a new song in the movie about women empowerment with the chorus repeating “All I know is I won’t go speechless”. I’m all for Jasmine taking a stand and not allowing Jafar to boss her around or take the kingdom without a fight, but this musical number is so poorly placed and so forced that I threw my hands up in disbelief and actually yelled “WHAT?” during the screening. This song is used as a Motif for Jasmine’s character like the “street rat” song is for Aladdin’s. It appears a few times throughout the film and it is bad each time. I understand the purpose and the idea behind it, but it is so poorly executed.
Mena Massoud looks like Aladdin, but that’s about all he brings to the table IMO. His performance is only elevated in scenes where he is able to play off of Will or Naomi. He also does not have a good singing voice and you can tell a lot of post processing was done on his voice for his musical numbers. Marwan Kenzari was a terrible casting choice to play Jafar. He isn’t intimidating looking nor is he suave or creepy. He plays Jafar like a whiny kid who got his toy taken away for being a brat. Jafar is the most disappointing aspect to this entire film. I feel like this movie would have been semi decent if the right person was brought on to play this important character. Bad villains make bad movies.
The musical numbers are fun and bring back some of the nostalgia that you’re hoping for, but they still aren’t as good as the original and you’d be better off just watching Aladdin (1992) at home and saving yourself $20.