“Aladdin” Tries Too Hard to Please

Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Will Smith as Genie in "Aladdin," 2019. Photo by Daniel Smith/Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (10247283ab)

Disney’s latest live action remake will inevitably divide critics. While some are excited by the new take on the old Disney classic, others are disappointed by the colorful and brash remake.

It is clear what the creators of this gawdy adaptation were trying to do. The character of Jasmine in the original movie is notoriously problematic, and so they tried to give her a 21st-century makeover. She even gets her own song called “Speechless,” which is about her finding her voice when she has been consistently silenced by those around her.

While the idea had the potential to be moving, we got the impression that Jasmine was curated for the commercial feminist rather than being a compelling, layered character. Her new drive and political ambition do make her character significantly better, it’s just a shame her character feels more like an archetype than a real person.

Will Smith’s performance as the genie will likely be the thing that divides critics the most. His character was bombastic and overzealous but his performance also kind of grows on you.

Unfortunately, one cannot play the genie without expecting to be compared to the iconic performance delivered by the late Robin Williams. Although it is a little harsh to compare, Smith’s portrayal was just not that funny by comparison. Or at all for that matter. It’s definitely not Will Smith’s finest performance.

Visually, the Persian setting of the movie was wonderful, for the naive watcher. There was less focus on the details and more focus on providing an over-the-top CGI fest.

It’s actually quite impressive how Aladdin succeeds in being bright and colorful while simultaneously being devoid of any personality. The charm was lost, and yet it’s still hard to hate on. This is largely because of the strength of the original story and our love of the musical numbers. The actors sang their hearts out and although things got tacky in some places, it’s all part of the fun.

Overall, Aladdin falls short of the original. It amends some of the dated ideas Disney made in the first animated feature, but it tries so hard to please that it loses the curiosity and charm we would expect from the Persian tale.

2/5