Aladdin (2019)

Aladdin (Official 2019 Film Poster).pngDirector: Guy Ritchie
Running Time: 128 Minutes
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, Alan Tudyk, Frank Welker

The next of their live action adaptation's, Disney passes directorial duties onto Guy Ritchie, in adapting their 1992 animated feature. The fact that such a big studio is willing to make a big budget blockbuster, with a cast largely made-up of non-white actors, is a feat worth praising. It's unfortunate the result is just out of reach of something great, held back by the ironic lack of adventure behind the scenes.

After a chance encounter with Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is smitten. He wants to impress her, but fears his social status will get in the way, but a chance encounter with a magic lamp has him cross paths with the all powerful Genie (Will Smith), who grants him three wishes. Also on the search for the magical lamp is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), a power-hungry Grand visier, who wants to gain power through overthrowing the Sultan.

Hiring Guy Ritchie to helm this story certainly turned a few heads, to have the man responsible for Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels make a family film. But to hire someone with such a distinctive style was promising, which leaves the final product all the more disappointing. One would struggle to tell this was Ritchie's work, as the direction is so diluted and ultimately bland. If anything, it's more believable his hiring was as a last minute replacement, much like Ron Howard in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Not helping matters are how lifeless the action set-pieces, and musical numbers, ultimately are. These are the moments where this film should be the most exciting, but instead stalls the film, and the great vocals often heard cannot make up for this. The former is further hurt by the mixed visual effects on display, which are glaring when they dominate the screen and exorcise the third-act sequences of any tension. Where as the on-screen sight of a blue Will Smith will return in your nightmares, things are more effective for the array of smaller characters who are reliant on visual effects. Abu especially works, to the point his cute looks try to make up for the characters lack of personality.

A more successful element is the writing, as John August and Guy Ritchie's screenplay updates the films in numerous ways. It answers how nobody manages to recognise Aladdin, especially when having such memorable encounters with him previously, and allows more of a voice for Jasmine this time. Her character gets to vocalise her troubles a lot more this time, leading to her own musical number which deserves to be well remembered. A massively unneeded element, though, is giving Genie a love interested. It's an unnecessary addition to his desire for freedom, and it comes off as though the screenwriters were afraid of having another female character in the film, without pairing her up.

What's easily the films best element is the acting, as Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott do perfect work capturing the inner turmoils of their characters, and deliver on the musical front especially well. It's without a doubt that Will Smith had the most difficult job, as he's taking over a role which has been synonymous with Robin Williams at his ad-libbing best. He wisely doesn't try to make a carbon copy of Williams' interpretation, opting to do his own thing, and he manages to do it rather well. The only exception for the cast is Marwan Kenzari, who takes the deliciously villainous role of Jafar, and makes him an utterly boring character.

Most of the cast do fantastically, but the lacklustre and tedious direction fails to take Aladdin to a whole new world of adventure. At least this time, Guy Ritchie held off on giving David Beckham an awful cameo appearance.