Back in 1992 Disney brought us the animated musical film Aladdin, the middle of a trilogy of highly successful films that became instant Disney classics. Although never as strong as the two giants sitting either side of it (Beauty and Beast 1991 and The Lion King 1994). What made Aladdin a classic was primarily the raucous energy and ad lib comedy of the late Robin Williams as the Genie of the lamp.
Continuing the Disney obsession with live action remakes of all three modern classics from the 1990’s. Guy Richie brings us a colourful, paint by numbers remake of the original animated film. Despite being a strange choice of Director for a Disney musical, Richies Aladdin surprisingly shines in places, but ultimately lacks the overall creative spark it needed to reach a whole new world.
Where Aladdin excels is in its ability to bring the city of Agrabah to life in glorious sets and technicolour. Its visual delight matched by engaging lead performances from Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott at Princess Jasmine. However, Aladdin never really gets off the ground, especially in some of its core musical numbers. The inherent problem being the delivery of the very character who made Aladdin such an instant hit in animated form; the Genie.
On paper Will Smith should have fit this role impeccably, with his proven comedic ability and wit. However, unfortunately for Aladdin, his portrayal feels uncomfortable, uninspiring and flat. His on screen relationship with Mena Massoud the only light in what is generally a disappointing performance. Even the genies big musical numbers somehow feel strained, offering nothing new to the character, while providing a pale imitation of Robin Williams lively and anarchic original creation.
Equally problematic is the live action Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who feels under-developed and slightly lost in the overarching narrative of the film, despite his big finale and core role in the films moral message.
It is possible that some of the problems in performance sit with the overall direction of the film, and the lack of experience of Guy Richie in the genre Aladdin inhabits. However, Richie does achieve a generally entertaining and colourful film that will keep most children engaged throughout.
Despite its problems, Massoud and Scott keep Aladdin upbeat and on track with engaging performances and on screen chemistry. Unfortunately their efforts are never matched by Smiths Genie. Who needed a sprinkle of some of the Genies magic dust on his own performance to elevate the film to the heights it should have reached.