Dumbo. Beauty & The Beast. The Jungle Book. Disney’s live action remakes of its animated classics have fallen short of their animated originals. Now we can add Aladdin to the list.
Nearly 30 years after Robin Williams used his voice to turn Genie into a cinematic legend, the genie is out of the bottle once again. But I’d be fine if he’d stayed there. I get it, it’s boring and not much scenery inside a lamp. Just a brass wall everywhere you turn. But in the new Aladdin, it’s pretty boring too. Just blah blah blah everywhere we turn.
If Disney thought it could bring an animated story to life using larger-than-life icon Will Smith, well, that’s just wishful thinking at its corporate finest. Will Smith tries and does okay with the lines given him. But watching the movie, I’m always conscious that I’m watching Will Smith. Looking back at the original, we can see a lot of Robin in the character, but being animated helped us separate the character from the actor.
Here there is no wall. It’s just various incarnations of Will being Will. There are some funny lines. He delivers with his charming self. But you’d get the same vibe if you cast Genie in sunglasses and a suit and had him join the Men In Black.
Aladdin and Jasmine are played by Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott and they do fine. They are young and energetic with decent enough voices to carry the film’s (still) instantly singable soundtrack.
But honestly the character I connected with best is Magic Carpet with Abu, the adorable sidekick monkey, coming in a close second.
A Whole New Generation
Of course, most kids seeing this either won’t have seen or won’t have the connection to the original. They’ll see a bright, colorful movie with great songs, young characters, and a slew of toys to ask for at their birthday.
However, the parents who need to buy a ticket as well, may very well walk out of the theater feeling a part of their childhood has been bastardized.
This movie isn’t terrible, but it’s not the instant-classic the original was. Everything about it is good, but far from great. At this writing it has a Rotten Tomatoes score in the mid-fifties. And that seems about right. Kids will think it’s great, adults will think it’s filled two hours and eight minutes of their time, plus 25 minutes of trailers.
But if you’ve spent that much time of your holiday weekend inside a theater instead of out enjoying the start of summer, you’ve sorely wasted your time.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Tea. It’s what Aladdin brings Jasmine when he sneaks in to the palace to see her. But we need Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka. That’ll help wash down the bitterness of a sullied childhood memory.