Aladdin (2019) Movie Review

By: Christian Harding (Three Beers) –

Of all the most irritating and useless of recent Hollywood trends, Disney’s recent scam to make big budget live action remakes of the some of their most popular animated features (some of which are still very fresh in the public consciousness) is among the very worst, in this writer’s opinion. The disparity between financial success and actual quality, or passion and creativity at the very least, is especially stark with these projects. The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast was certainly an enormous financial hit, but a mere two years after its release, is anyone remembering it with any sort of reverence or fondness – or even remembering it at all? Extremely doubtful. Despite the lukewarm at best receptions to most of these products, they continue to make oodles of cash, likely based solely on empty nostalgia-baiting, so here we are with another one in the Guy Ritchie-directed Aladdin, the second of three live action remakes slated for this year, and one of two whose original film isn’t even thirty years old yet.
A Toast
All of that having been said, this particular remake actually turns out to be not so bad, altogether. Dare I say, it’s actually fairly enjoyable. Surely I needn’t reiterate the plot, which is more or less a beat for beat recreation of the 1992 original Aladdin, with maybe a small handful of additions and some slight reordering of the plot’s major events. Every other live action Disney remake essentially recreates the original film to a fault, so why expect this one to be any different? Eschewing the more grey, somber tone and visual approach of the aforementioned B&TB, Aladdin takes on a more lively, colorful aesthetic to compliment its host of beloved characters and songs. All of this is aided by some top-of-the-line costumes and set design, and a cast that’s… mostly up to the task. Newcomer Mena Massoud fares perfectly fine in the title role, while Naomi Scott as this version’s Jasmine is given plenty of life and agency in her role; and while the entire world collectively groaned at the initial peeks of Will Smith’s Genie, the Fresh Prince actually manages to pull it off well. Of course there’s no replacing Robin Williams, but Smith still has enough charisma to make the role still stand out enough on his own terms.
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Beer Two

So yes, this newest version of Aladdin boasts good production values, a solid cast, and some powerful renditions of songs both old and new. But what’s it all in the service of? A beat for beat recreation of a film that’s a.) Less than thirty years old, b.) Still very much in the public consciousness as far as pop cultural influence goes, and c.) From an entirety different visual medium of storytelling.

None of those three factors would be as much of a hindrance were the narrative more original. But the film’s slavish devotion to the original’s formula and hesitation to do anything other than rearrange a few plot beats or add filler to what’s already there is what truly keeps it from attaining the same magic that was captured 27 not-as-long-ago-as-you-think years ago. To say nothing of completely removing any surprise or tension from the storyline at all, which definitely doesn’t help things either.

Beer Three

Is the mere fact that a film exists enough to hold against it? Despite being a surprisingly enjoyable experience, I still remain unconvinced that the whole torrent of live action remakes Disney is now churning out on the regular is a necessary experiment. Some are definitely better than others, but when all is said and done, you just simply cannot beat the magic and wonder of the originals. And no amount of A-list celebrities, production values, or rushed & creepy looking CGI effects is ever going to change that fact.

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Verdict

At the end of the day, Aladdin was actually a pleasant surprise. Still an utterly corporate product that didn’t need to get made. But as far as those things go, it’s honestly not that bad. It’s more lively and colorful than the Beauty and the Beast remake, and in the broad strokes, it holds its own as a standalone feature when mentally removed from association with its animated counterpart. Nothing wholly exceptional, but as far as a two hour time waster in the theater, you could probably do much worse. That may sound like very faint praise, but take it for what it’s worth.

Aladdin (2019) Drinking Game

Do a Shot: whenever Aladdin makes a wish.

Do another Shot: each time there’s a musical number.

One more Shot: every time the Genie “turns human” and ditches the blue tint.

Shotgun a Beer: when the whopping one(!) brand new songs kicks into gear.

About Christian Harding

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