When a movie studio knows that the live action remake they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on can’t improve on the original, the logical question is why would they waste their time making it?
Disney has fumbled more times than not when it comes to the quality of their live action remakes, compared to the original animated films. Think 101 Dalmatians (1996), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), and this year’s Dumbo. Add to that list the live action remake of Aladdin, starring Will Smith as the genie.
2017’s Beauty and the Beast was an exception, a film that was nearly as good as its animated predecessor.
The only reason any of these remakes have been given the green light is the fact that, more often than not, the films will clean up at the box office, earning back in multiples what they cost to produce. Even if this film takes in only $600 million, worldwide, splitting half of that with movie theaters, the film will still end up in the black, before home entertainment, merchandising, Disney+ revenue and rides based on the film at Disney theme parks.
The live action Aladdin, in theaters this weekend, opens with Will Smith as a man, not as the genie, on a boat with his wife and two children, a boy and a girl, telling them he will recount a story to them. He even promises not to sing. He breaks his promise within seconds, and so begins the tale of Aladdin, the genie, princess Jasmine and the evil Jafar.
The original 1992 animated Aladdin clocked in at a very tolerable 90 minutes. And that film was stolen by Robin Williams take on the genie. This incarnation is 40 minutes longer and could have done with a lot of editing. In addition, while Will Smith’s genie isn’t sinful, the dreadful CGI of the character, and lack of natural, manic energy that Robin Williams breathed into his genie, leaves a lot to be desired.
With a budget of over $200 million, and devoid of any A, B, C or D list talent, other than Smith and his genie, the film fails on multiple levels. There is no chemistry between Aladdin, played by Egyptian born Mena Massoud, and Princess Jasmine, played by British born Naomi Scott (who is of Indian and British heritage). The more than two hours of their flirting amounts to nothing more than a tacked on Indian style wedding reception scene during the end credits of the film. Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), instead of being scary, is just plain boring to listen to and watch. And Saturday Night Live’s Nasim Pedrad, who plays Dalia, Princess Jasmine’s servant, is not cut out for the big screen.
Wasting 128 minutes watching this film made me wish that Walt Disney Pictures still did what they for decades, until the advent of home video; re-releasing their animated classics every seven years for a new generation.
One can only hope that the third time is the charm this year, that the live action The Lion King, in theaters this summer, is a film that hits a home run.
Aladdin (2019) Review by Tim Nasson