The Live-Action ‘Aladdin’ Remake is Very Bad
Oddly, the movie that I kept thinking about during the interminable two hours and eight minutes I spent sitting in a chair while the Aladdin remake beamed into my face was “Psycho”. Not the original, but Gus Van Zant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake. Up until now, you’d be hard pressed to find a more inessential movie. I hesitate to call it a movie, actually. A dare, the result of a lost bet, a collective expression of sheer boredom, all of these fit. The remake of Psycho raises so many questions, not the least of which is “Vince Vaughn?” This new Aladdin somehow manages to be even less necessary than the Psycho”remake.
ALADDIN ★ (1/5 stars)
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: John August and Guy Ritchie
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari
Running time: 128 min
Plot-wise, it’s pretty much the same as the original. Aladdin is a “street rat”, who evil Jafar, counselor to the sultan, hires/tricks to steal a magic lamp from a cursed cave. The lamp has a Genie. The Genie grants Aladdin three wishes. Aladdin uses those wishes to win over Jasmine, the sultan’s daughter. Hilarity, action, magical stuff, and songs ensue.
You’ll probably read other reviews of the new Aladdin movie, and these reviews will discuss all of the elements of the movie. It is, after all, called “Aladdin”, and not “The Genie”, even though the best thing about the original is The Genie. You’ll see a few sentences devoted to Guy Ritchie’s unremarkable, certainly not Guy Ritchie-esque direction. It’s got none of the zip Ritchie showed in his Sherlock Holmes movies, or the underrated Man From UNCLE. You’ll read some stuff about the people in roles other than The Genie. They’re mostly forgettable; Naomi Scott, who plays Jasmine, has the best voice of the bunch. But you don’t care about that. All you really care about is the new Genie, Will Smith. Will Smith Will Smiths his way through his spoken lines. And as a singer, he’s a fine rapper who peaked in the 90s.
Of course, in the original animated movie Robin Williams voices The Genie. He was, is, and ever shall be an abso-god-damn-lute delight in the part. He’s funny, sings like a champ, and even gets you all weepy at the end. Robin Williams is beyond iconic in the original Aladdin. For better or worse, he single-handedly launched the Very Famous People Doing Cartoon Voices Movement, and no one has ever put his or her stamp on an animated role like Williams did with The Genie.
Come to think of it, it might be one of the most iconic performances of ANY kind, animated or live-action. Yes, people like the “Whole New World” bit, and Gilbert Gottfried is great as Iago the parrot, but Robin Williams is reason that the original Aladdin is in the Disney pantheon. Quick: find a friend and do some word association. Say “The Genie” and see what the response is. It’ll be “Robin Williams” (or maybe “Barbara Eden”). It won’t be “Will Smith”.
The whole thing is a somnambulistic, cynical, irrelevant cash-grab. At least Van Zant remade Psycho as an experimental one-off; Disney keeps churning out these live-action versions of classic animated movies, taking a Dumbo-sized dump on the artistry and performances that went into them. Do yourselves a favor: take the money you were thinking about spending on this, and go buy the original animated Aladdin on Blu-ray.