Another Disney animated classic gets dusted off for a live action makeover, and this time it’s the Middle Eastern folk tale of a street thief who finds a magical lamp, that was originally made in 1992 and is best remembered for Robin Williams’ iconic vocal performance as the wisecracking genie.
Early photos of Will Smith in blue make up as Genie in this new version were, well, disturbing, and the hiring of Guy Ritchie as director didn’t inspire great joy (his last movie was the dull King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword– you can read the two star Movies4Kids review here). But – with some provisos – this has turned out to be a pretty decent, entertaining romp that should appeal to junior and grown-up audiences looking for some light-hearted escapism.
Keeping the heart – and the songs – of the original animated movie, the action kicks off with Aladdin (Massoud) running through the city of Agrabah, where he bumps into an in-disguise Princess Jasmine (Scott). But just as romance is starting to blossom, our petty thief is captured by scheming Sultan’s assistant Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and forced to enter a creepy cave and retrieve that special lamp. Thanks to sleight of hand, Aladdin manages to escape Jafar and the cave with a magic carpet and the lamp, which happens to be the home of a fast-talking Genie who can grant Aladdin three wishes.
The film fumbles in places, most obviously in the casting of Kenzari as the blandest, least threatening baddie you’re ever likely to come across (although, as a bonus for parents, it means that even the littlest viewers won’t be scared of him). Ritchie, meanwhile, inserts a slow motion scene that doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie, and spoils a terrific action sequence of Aladdin on the run by having him awkwardly bursting into a rendition of ‘One Jump Ahead’ as he’s flying about. And a new song, ‘Speechless’ is a sub-Frozen disaster despite Scott’s lovely vocals.
Happily, there are moments when the movie shines, too. The escape from the cave is exciting, and the flight over the land as Massoud and Scott sing ‘A Whole New World’ is lovely, and every bit as enchanting as the animated version.
Best of all are the scenes in which Smith gets to grandstand as the Genie. His CGI-blue form may be a bit unnerving (for some reason his head is really, really big and blocky) but his performance is as vibrant as his skin, especially during the grand procession of ‘Prince Ali’. Partly a homage to Williams, but also 100% Will Smith, his appearance here – while muted in places (you can’t help wondering if he could have taken it further over the top, just like his genie hats) is a reminder of what a great entertainer the Fresh Prince can be – he really can sing, dance and act. Here’s hoping he gets another (even better) movie soon where he can do all three.
Is Aladdin (2019) suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Aladdin does face danger in the cave as it collapses, but it isn’t very scary.
Grand Vizier Jafar isn’t very frightening or threatening (he’s less scary than in the animated version) so younger children should be fine.
The only scene that may startle or upset very young children is when the parrot transforms into a very large bird towards the end of the movie.
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