Aladdin (2019)

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The street rat Aladdin (Mena Massoud) falls in love with the Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and, seeking a way to win her heart, discovers a magical lamp containing an all-powerful genie that can grant three wishes.

The Highs
The best part of Aladdin is, without a doubt, the costumes and set pieces. The city of Agrabah really comes to life and transports the audience into that far away world. In true Disney fashion, the central characters wear outfits representing those that made them so iconic in the original animated film.

I don’t remember a lot of the animated film – having not watched it for at least a decade – but I don’t recall Jasmine being such a central character. I really enjoyed that Guy Ritchie brought her to the forefront, and made her desire to be Sultan a main focal point of the narrative. Most of the princesses in past Disney films were nothing more than pretty ornaments, unable to elevate themselves beyond their situation and requiring a savior to do so. It was refreshing to see Jasmine’s empowerment here.

In the same way, I liked that Genie (Will Smith) got a little more depth. The beginning of the film, showing his life after becoming human, was cool and added a bit of closure to his story. Jaffar (Marwan Kenzari) also gets a little more complex and, dare I say, nearly becomes an empathetic villain. Where he was nothing more than evil and power-hungry in the animated film, here the viewer is shown a bit more of what caused his twisted personality.

The Lows
Unfortunately, a lot of the visual effects range from mediocre to bad. Genie looks awkward throughout the entirety of the film, with Will Smith’s face appearing strange on the animated body and the arms looking short and stubby in some of the scenes. Abu and Rajah were okay, and I didn’t have too much of a problem with their CGI. Some of the facial animations for Abu were questionable, but nothing to get too upset about.

Most of the script that isn’t a direct copy of the animated film is very bad. This is compounded by uninspired performances from most of the cast, our protagonists being the worst offenders. There is very little chemistry between Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, and this makes the overall story somewhat unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine Aladdin and Jasmine falling in love when they can hardly share a scene together that feels authentic.

Where some of the characters were expounded upon, others were forced to the background. Jasmine’s father, the Sultan (Navid Negahban), is inconsequential. In the animated film, he was a bumbling old man that was clearly not capable of ruling Agrabah. It’s strange that this change was made, given the character development that Jasmine undergoes in this film.

I didn’t care much for the new song, and felt that it didn’t quite fit with the existing ones. I understand the need for it, again given Jasmine’s character arc, but it sounded more like a mainstream pop song that you’d hear on the radio than an organic addition to the soundtrack.

The cinematography is generally passable, but the random speed manipulation that is used in several scenes is very off-putting and strange.

Final Thoughts
Aladdin is a decent interpretation of the animated film that contains both good and bad changes, but childhood nostalgia goes a long way in allowing this carpet ride to be entertaining and enjoyable.

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