By: Kim Regala, Peak Associate
Magic flying carpets, wish-granting genies, and a charming young prince eager to show you a whole new world: what else could you need? When Disney announced that a live-action remake of Aladdin would be coming to theatres, the world sat in anticipation. While the original film sparked magic in the hearts of many young children (and adults too), the 2019 release fails its attempt to relive this glory.
A lot of the excitement leading up to the film could quite easily be credited to the casting of Will Smith as Genie. Genie remains as one of the most memorable Disney characters and Smith delivers a refreshing take on this old-time classic. With clear Fresh Prince of Bel-Air influence, he brings his own sense of humour and swagger into the mixture, which makes for an enjoyable viewing.
Smith’s performance is definitely not one you would want to miss out on, but Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud steals the spotlight with his stunning portrayal of Aladdin. Massoud’s Aladdin is impressive considering that this is his first-ever lead role. His performance also incorporates a more modern take on the character, but still manages to capture and maintain the essence of Aladdin’s persona. Admittedly, Massoud’s charming looks play a large role in winning the hearts of the audience, but he showcases his singing and dancing too, giving us a few reasons to admire him.
While Smith and Massoud’s acting are definitely worth the view, these two casting decisions seemed to be the only thing going for the film. Jafar loses his comical and over-the-top personality in the remake and instead only exists as a more stereotypical and far less interesting antagonist. The Sultan, Jasmine’s father, also loses his beloved childish attitude, his character relegated to the background.
Where the film really hits its lowest of lows is its clumsy special effects and editing. While this can sometimes be forgivable with a decent storyline and acting, Aladdin is a film that depends heavily on these elements in order to immerse us into its world of magic and fantasy. The lack of attention to good special effects is most noticeable through Aladdin’s monkey Abu, Jasmine’s tiger Rajah, and Jafar’s parrot Iago. The clear lack of detail in achieving the most realistic appearance is disappointing, especially for a Disney production.
The disappointment doesn’t end there, as the stylistic decisions in editing also prove to be more jarring than impressive. Dance sequences are subtly sped up to create the illusion of fast-paced choreography while certain moments in the film are slowed down for artistic purposes. Unfortunately, these choices only make for a distracting viewing experience which takes away from the world that the film meant to create.
Disney’s live action remake comes to a not-so-close second to the original. Still, despite the film’s flawed decisions in character portrayal and editing, Smith and Massoud’s performance are reason enough to come out and relive the magic of Aladdin. Just . . . maybe wait ‘til you can watch it almost free of charge on Netflix.