I’m sick of these live action Disney remakes.
I understand why Disney is making so many – to capitalize on our nostalgia and fondness for the movies we grew up with. But it proves that Disney is as sophisticated as Michael Bay by appealing to the lowest common denominator and dumbing down classic movies just for the sake of making a quick buck. It certainly doesn’t help that none of these live action remakes have been good so far, just cheap repackaging of movies that didn’t need to be remade in the first place, since there’s no way these stories could be told better than they were through animation.
Case in point, Disney’s newest cash grab, “Aladdin.”
This soulless remake lacks the energy and wit of the original, coming across as a film as Disney never understanding why it was beloved outside of Robin Williams as the Genie. While the original “Aladdin” isn’t my favorite Disney animated movie, it was probably the one I watched the most as it always felt the most grand and magical, like I really was transported to a fantastical new world with very likable characters. And while the remake does attempt to add new elements, especially to characters like Jafar and Jasmine, something that other live-action remakes have horribly failed at, the main problem is that there’s no passion behind anything, everyone only attempting to do a serviceable job instead of trying to be like the animated version.
Part of what made the animated “Aladdin” so great was because the animation and how well it complimented the unpredictable nature of the Genie and, to a lesser extent, Jafar’s powers during the final act, while always making Agrabah look like a wondrous and colorful kingdom. And there’s just no way that a live action remake can replicate that nearly as well. The CGI is painfully noticeable which makes this Agrabah feel like a small market with a less than stellar palace by comparison. As many people have brought up, the effects on the Genie are not great either and they get even worse as the film reaches that once wondrous climax, turning it into a shell of its former self.
However, some changes are for the better, especially when it comes to Jafar (Marwin Kenzari). In place of the maniacal, cackling villain of old, we get a more deceptive, calculating plotter who sees a lot of himself in Aladdin (Mena Massoud), offering a lot of interesting parallels between the two. This serves a rather nice role in the overall theme of how power and greed can corrupt anyone and how there is no end to that greed. However, I wouldn’t call this Jafar “evil” as much as a schemer, which is a disappointment since the animated Jafar might be Disney’s best villain.
Of course, there is one thing everyone is curious about – how does Will Smith’s Genie stack up against Robin Williams? The answer, rather obviously is that Smith doesn’t hold a candle to Williams. But then again, he never really tries to go for the same Genie as Robin Williams. Instead of a frenetic, hyper-active but well-meaning Genie like with Williams, Smith plays a self-centered, wise-cracking Genie that plays more to Smith’s own strengths. Even though the CGI on him is less than convincing, he does spend many scenes as himself to really set him apart from Williams. So while Smith isn’t nearly as memorable as Williams, he does enough with his role to differentiate himself from Williams. Which is probably the best praise I can give this movie.
But overall, the new “Aladdin” isn’t something I’d want to watch more than once, especially since the original did everything better. It wasn’t a bad experience, there are still many fun scenes in the first two-thirds where either Will Smith or Marwan Kenzari get a chance to shine, even Naomi Scott as Jasmine gives a very commanding performance, which is enough to keep the audience distracted for two hours. But there’s nothing that this film excels at, never getting close to the same awe and wonder of the animated version, only feeling like a lifeless copy of a classic – which basically summarizes all of these live action Disney remakes.
Final Grade: C-