Image: Mena Massoud as Aladdin © Property of Disney [Source: IMDB]
A thief with a heart of gold and a dastardly Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp with the power to make their wishes come true. Unannounced to them, this lamp comes with a lot of style and attitude.
Director: Guy Ritchie. Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari [PG]
I’ll be honest. I don’t remember much of the original Aladdin. But what I do remember is the Genie, or more specifically is Robin Williams. While the Genie is by no means the main protagonist he is the star of the show in every sense of the word and that part is undeniably Williamses. It’s funny how while the story is not about him, the character is so undeniably charismatic and attention drawing he overshadows everything else about the film. The best songs are his, the best dialogue is his and the most poignant part of the film is him.
That does lead me to say that while it may be unfair to compare Smith to Williamses portrayal. I also think its rather silly not to. The Genie IS Robin Williams, it was written for him and frankly, the character is every bit Williams as Williams is it. So much so that it’s impossible to recreate or change my perception of Williams as the Genie. Which is why while I will say that Smith doesn’t do the role any justice, he doesn’t necessarily do a bad job. It’s a part he cannot win. So with that in mind…
Smith while carrying enough charisma to hold the film together. He pales in his part as the Genie, he comes across as stiff and awkward. Not having nearly enough of the energy or on the fly improvisational comedy that the part requires from an audience who know this character. It’s made even tougher for Smith to capture the part correctly with it being a live action picture. While Williamses Genie had to power of animation to capture the ludicrousness of the Genie, Smith’s portrayal is janky and restricted. Smith doesn’t quite have the magnitude to pull it through either. While You’ve Never Had A Friend Like Me and Prince Ali being the ones we all can recall at a moments notice from the original. In this Jasmine’s Speechless takes top prize for me. With the Genie actually taking up less of the spotlight in this however it did leave room for the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine to be more apparent and Jafar’s greed to be felt. Sure there is very little substance in these characters but this version of Aladdin’s story felt more like Aladdin’s story and less about the Genie.
To which it tells the familiar story of Aladdin well enough, the performances are expectedly plain with exception to Jafar who does have some fun with the over top villain and actually comes out well doing it. It does try perhaps too much to stick to the exact recipe of the previous Aladdin, the jury is still out on whether something new might have worked better as I do feel this is a cast that could succeed more escaping from under the animation’s shadow. It just requires some creativity from Disney. Ultimately, this is an Aladdin that will be quickly forgotten.