Stars: 3.5/5

By now, I think everyone is getting a bit tired of Disney’s live action remakes.

The most recent victim of this storm of CGI is a crowd favorite — a tale full of adventure, magic and of course, a blue genie. When recreating something so well-loved, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution, sticking as accurately as possible to the original. Luckily, “Aladdin” did no such thing.

After roughly four straight years of capitalizing off the nostalgia of their glory days, even Disney writers appear to be feeling the strain of unoriginality. The recent line of live action remakes have left fans desperate for some kind of freshness, and “Aladdin” delivers a bushel of new plot points that drag the film into the modern era.

The original “Aladdin” contains many of the issues common of Disney films of the past. Princess Jasmine, though rebellious, has little depth besides a love interest, while endless stereotypes surrounding the Arab world are perpetuated through dialogue and visuals. Needless to say, it’s not the most culturally sensitive film. Disney is finally realizing it’s time to change that.

In the 2019 version, Director Guy Ritchie beefs up the original plot to make Jasmine (Naomi Scott) an actual person, full of strength and political gusto. Her goal, instead of simply avoiding an arranged marriage, is to become the sultan herself, implementing change and modernizing the fantasyland of Agrabah.

The rest of the plot mainly falls in line with the original. Rapscallion Aladdin (Mena Massoud) meets and falls in love with Jasmine, the power-hungry Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) uses Aladdin to retrieve a magic lamp, and the Genie (Will Smith) grants wishes. Hijinks ensue.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as whimsical as the original.

Without debate, Robin Williams’s performance as the Genie was the best it will get. He made the Genie the character he is, ad-libbing lines and adding the fast-talk the character needed to soar. With that being said, anyone else filling the role is going to be slightly disappointing, and such was the case with Will Smith. If he didn’t have such big shoes to fill, he would have been great, but he was predestined to fall short. Smith knew he’d never be able to top Williams’s performance, but he still did what he could with the role.

Ultimately, the live-action aspect itself put a damper on the whimsy of the film. Without the original style, some of the magical elements were just disappointing (Iago being an actual parrot, for example) while the whole visual impact of the movie was overwhelming at times. Extreme color and action work with cartoons, but too much CGI just feels like a headache.

Overall, “Aladdin” was about as good as a remake can be. It fixed the issues from the original, but stripped away a bit of the fantasy too. At this point, I’d really just like to see a film where I don’t already know the ending.

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