The Often Imitated But Never Duplicated: ‘Aladdin’ Chooses Imitation over Innovation

Disney, apparently willing to cannibalize their entire animated library for dolla dolla bills, y’all just took the live action version of Aladdin out of the oven and is ready to watch the masses devour it whole.

As with all remakes, I have to once again reiterate that I have nothing against the remake… as long as it either retells the story in an interesting way or improves on the original. The Jungle Book, for example, is the very definition of a good remake… it took a beloved and yet flawed movie and improved the narrative, making it more focused and more exciting.

On the other hand, Beauty and the Beast just did a bad community theater version of the original, improving nothing and merely reenacting it… terribly.

Aladdin falls somewhere in the middle. At times, it works. Other times, it does not. Sometimes it does something new, most of the time, it’s just reenacting what we’ve already seen.

We all know the story of Aladdin, so I’m not going to waste your time or mine. What you really want to know is, is this movie worth buying a ticket for? The answer is… meh. I don’t know. Personally, I didn’t much care for it, but there were precious moments that I thought a better movie did shine through the tarnish of the one I watched.

Will Smith, for example, was surprisingly decent as the Genie and I say that with full knowledge that Robin William’s Genie was legendary-level amazing. I have to credit Will Smith for not just redoing what Williams did and doing something new and different with the part. A reverence of sorts shows in his performance, quieter and more reserved. He’s not trying to do Robin Williams, he’s not trying to outdo Robin Williams… he’s doing Will Smith and Will Smith is likable, charismatic, and funny. That’s the best we could hope for and that is what is delivered. I would go so far as to say that the movie doesn’t even find its energy until Will Smith’s Genie enters the picture.

Yeah, the special effects can sometimes be a little off-putting. The Genie jerks unnaturally and looks weird, but other times, it works once you get used to it.

The other primaries, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Mena Massoud as Aladdin, are both charming and fun to watch even though they do play many of the scenes a lot flatter that I care for. They do their best, they’re both attractive, and they both sing their little hearts out, but it still feels like they’re copying the animated movie rather than doing something new and exciting. These two are doing the bad community theater version of Aladdin.

At least they’re not as bad as Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar. It’s through no fault of the actor himself, but he was woefully miscast and, as a threat, he feels about as dangerous as a hissing kitten. He didn’t have the presence, he didn’t have the voice… He just didn’t work. I never took him seriously as the antagonist because I honestly felt that Aladdin could have taken him in a fist fight.

While it is not as bad as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin suffers from many of the same problems. It just doesn’t justify its own existence and, instead, goes for imitation over innovation. Remember what the Genie said the in original movie? The often imitated but never duplicated? It turns out that was a prophecy and not a witty one-liner.

1 comment

  1. Great review Jason. I find it sad seeing all these classics being remade for the dolla dolla bills, but as you mentioned, at least there will occasionally be a Jungle Book level remake. sadly this wasn’t that, but it was at least watchable. that being said, Robin Williams alone means that I choose the animated film every time.
    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

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