Aladdin (AU - PG/UK - PG/US - PG)

In a Word: Flashy

Aladdin

Will Smith is the Genie and Mena Massoud is Aladdin in Disney's Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie. PICTURE: Daniel Smith

 

"Will Smith’s Genie...will bring about the inevitable comparison to Robin Williams. While Smith’s performance is entertaining in it’s own right, it never rises to the sheer genius of what Williams delivered...There is, however, a smart decision to put Will Smith’s charm to good use with a new subplot revolving around the Genie’s courtship of Jasmine’s handmaiden. This provides some additional comedic moments and sets up a satisfying device to bookend the story."

The 1992 animated Aladdin is considered a classic with an award-winning score, charming animation and a knockout performance by Robin Williams as Genie. With the bar set so high, can Disney’s latest live action adaption do justice to the original?

The familiar cast of characters are all brought to life faithfully with a combination of live action and visual effects. Aladdin, the "street rat” with a heart of gold played by Mena Massoud, is joined by his faithful monkey, Abu, and magic carpet - both stunningly realised in CGI - as he tries to win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). When Aladdin discovers the magic lamp containing the fast talking, all powerful, Genie (Will Smith) he is granted three wishes which put his wits and character to the test.

The hit songs A Whole New World, Friend Like Me, Arabian Nights, One Jump Ahead and Prince Ali are presented with little musical change from the original. However composer Alan Menken teamed up with La La Land writers Pasek & Paul to write a new song for Princess Jasmine, Speechless, which brings a solid dose of female empowerment to the story and score. The musical numbers have a lot razzle-dazzle, glitzy choreography, and CGI embellishment to stimulate the senses. It is thrilling to see the magic carpet ride, Prince Ali’s parade and the 'Cave of Wonders' brought to life in such spectacular fashion.

Will Smith’s Genie, however, will bring about the inevitable comparison to Robin Williams. While Smith’s performance is entertaining in it’s own right, it never rises to the sheer genius of what Williams delivered. Furthermore, the Broadway sound of Arabian Nights is not a great match for the 'Fresh Prince’s' rap sensibilities. There is, however, a smart decision to put Will Smith’s charm to good use with a new subplot revolving around the Genie’s courtship of Jasmine’s handmaiden. This provides some additional comedic moments and sets up a satisfying device to bookend the story.

Director Guy Ritchie does an admirable job adding enough new scenes and songs to keep things fresh while cleverly keeping the best parts of the original intact. The core story of being true to your self despite temptation is just as meaningful now as it was 27 years ago. 

One of the core messages of Aladdin is, that no matter how powerful the wish, a Genie can only change the outward appearance, but the core character and personality will remain the same. Ironically this live adaption of the film is exactly like one of the Genie’s wishes. It comes with more than $US180 million of special effects, stars and blockbuster marketing. But it's not this opulence which makes the film a success - it works because the core story, characters and music were already so compelling to begin with.