Disney continues to empty the vault with “Aladdin,” the latest live-action adaptation of a beloved animated film.
While “Aladdin” is better than Disney’s last attempt to update an animated film with “Dumbo” and is not nearly as bad as the disastrous trailer suggests, it is still a film that doesn’t really bring anything new to the source material.
Mena Massoud plays the title character, a fun-loving street urchin living in Agrabah, who has a chance encounter with Agrabah’s princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) when she sneaks out of the kingdom to at least temporarily escape her sheltered life.
Aladdin is eager to impress the princess and gets his chance to do so when the kingdom’s second-in-command the Royal Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) gives him a simple task – go into the Cave of Wonders and retrieve a magical lamp, one that unbeknownst to Aladdin has magical powers that Jafar wants to use to take over the kingdom.
Aladdin gets the lamp and discovers for himself that the secret powers lie in a genie (Will Smith) who lives inside. The genie grants three wishes to whoever rubs the lamp, giving Aladdin the chance to change his fortune and woo the princess.
Disney’s recent run of adaptations of previously animated films has suffered from a darker tone that isn’t very family friendly. Thankfully, “Aladdin” is much more kid-friendly – fast-paced with humor, some really nice cinematography and set designs and enough callbacks to the 1992 classic that will satisfy most fans of the original.
It is kind of odd to see Guy Ritchie (the man behind the “Sherlock Holmes” films) do a kids’ movie, but his eye for zippy action works well here.
The cast is fine for the most part, with Smith actually managing to step out of the large shadow of the late Robin Williams – whose turn as the genie in the original was so iconic that it garnered Oscar talk at the time of its release. Smith wisely doesn’t try to imitate Williams, giving it his own charmingly manic spin that provides “Aladdin” with most of its best moments.
The rest of the cast is fine for the most part, with the exception of Kenzari, who doesn’t quite capture the menacing presence of Jafar.
While a lot of the new “Aladdin” works, it ultimately can’t overcome the odd decision to turn the film into a full-blown musical. Yes, it is fun to relive “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me” (songs made famous from the original film), but this new version has nearly a dozen songs sprinkled throughout with a few musical numbers bringing the story to a grinding halt.
If the music had been trimmed just a bit, I would have an easier time recommending this new “Aladdin.” As it is, I think it’s a film that people who want to see it will likely enjoy, but there isn’t enough material there to convert new fans.