Guy Ritchie (director)
2h 8mins (length)
23 May 2019 (released)
28 May 2019
Guy Ritchie's live-action remake of 1992's Aladdin largely follows the same plot as the animated original.
It focuses on Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a thieving street rat who has no parents and only a pet monkey named Abu for company. While sneaking into the Sultan's palace to see Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), he is captured by the Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and brought to the Cave of Wonders and forced to retrieve a special lamp for him.
After Abu and Aladdin keep the lamp for themselves, they unleash the Genie (Will Smith), who will grant Aladdin three wishes. He asks to become a prince so he can be with Jasmine, who longs to be the leader of her kingdom, Agrabah.
The best thing about Ritchie's Aladdin is the performances. Smith faced a huge challenge playing the Genie after Robin Williams did such amazing voice work in the original, but he is the most entertaining character by far and carries the film. It's hard to follow up or try to top such a beloved performance so Smith doesn't try to - he just makes it his own and he is incredibly funny, more so when he's in his human form than his CGI blue shape, which was done via motion capture.
Massoud is adorable and endearing as Aladdin and audiences should warm to him straight away thanks to his first solo song, One Jump Ahead. He can sing, dance and he has a charming onscreen presence. Scott also delivers, giving Jasmine a modern upgrade and making her more feisty and determined than we’ve seen her before. She has fun scenes with her handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), a hilarious new addition to the film, along with Billy Magnussen as potential suitor Prince Anders. The only disappointment was Kenzari as the evil Jafar, who gave a really hammy, pantomime villain-style performance.
All of the lead human performances - as well as the computer-generated ones from Abu, Jafar's pet parrot Iago and the Magic Carpet - elevate a film which could have otherwise been quite mediocre. Given that it's a musical with many well-loved songs, it's bizarre that these sequences failed to excite when they should have been spectacular standout moments. Smith's big number Friend Like Me had too much going on, the CGI was very messy and it borrowed too heavily from Williams' take, while A Whole New World was accompanied by really dull visuals so it didn't deliver that sense of wonder. The best song is actually the only new one - Speechless. Jasmine sings the emotional power ballad beautifully and it carries a very modern female empowerment message.
Aladdin took a while to produce some laughs and has quite a few technical issues, from editing, the occasional dodgy piece of CGI and the odd and jarring decision to speed up some of the characters' movements, but the performances from Smith, Scott and Massoud are so good that you can gloss over some of these concerns.
This remake is very loyal to the original except for a few modernisations and tweaks so Aladdin fans can rest assured that it doesn't stray too far into new territory. Thankfully, it isn't a word-for-word or shot-for-shot retelling so it feels more fresh and exciting. Ritchie's film is by no means perfect but it's a fun, entertaining remake that should earn Aladdin a whole new generation of fans.