Published May 24, 2019In 2017, when Will Smith was announced as the Genie in Disney's live-action reboot of Aladdin, comedian Demi Adejuyigbe took millions on a magic carpet ride into the best possible version of this future with his parody of a Fresh Prince Aladdin credits song. Not only does it outshine Will Smith's actual credits contribution — his middling "Friend Like Me" with DJ Khaled — but it's a better Will Smith impression than Smith himself, who opted to leave his scene-stealing antics in the '90s.
Smith doesn't just struggle to fit into Robin Williams' cosmic blue shoes — he hardly fills them, leaving bare the simple narrative of star-crossed lovers from separate worlds struggling to meet in the middle, set to the dusty, ancient Persian backdrop. Without the Genie to drive the film's humour, all we're left with is a lifeless romance with questionable morals about the merits of staying true to oneself.
The film largely follows the plot of Disney's 1992 animated version, which finds impoverished grifter Aladdin (Mena Massoud) enlisting the mystical Genie (Smith) to help him win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is forbidden to date commoners, all while trying to keep the Genie's lamp out of the clutches of the villainous Jafar (Marwan Kenzari).
While Jasmine's overtly feminist political leanings give the film's subtext a much-needed update, it's by and large a drab, lifeless retelling of Disney's animated classic. Massoud lacks the affability to drive Aladdin's clever, Robin Hood-esque antics, and Scott as Jasmine has more on-screen chemistry with Nasim Pedrad as handmaiden Dalia (easily the best new addition to this remake, and the best character in the film) than she does with Massoud's Aladdin.
Despite the big-budget visuals, the remake is missing the vitality of the original, and is filled with overstuffed backstories and subplots that hamper the pacing. The musical numbers lack the vocal power of the originals, and the arrangements are largely replications of the original. The lone new song, Jasmine solo number "Speechless," nullifies any momentum the film is building up to — even worse when it reprises near the film's climax.
With all of its big musical numbers and palatial set pieces, the live-action Aladdin is remarkably devoid of spirit, and serves as little more than another attempt from Disney to cash in on their back catalogue.