Aladdin film review: A monument to mediocrity 

I suppose you have to admire their consistency. Disney’s latest live-action remake, Aladdin, is another bloated, poorly executed and frankly unnecessary re-creation of a beloved cartoon. The writing is clumsy and so obviously written by two middle-aged white men trying to be woke. The visuals ought to be stunning, but at times are so noticeably filmed on a green screen it’s nearly impossible to enjoy. A Whole New World, easily the high point of the original film, is here difficult to watch because the CGI is so poorly executed it feels like a filmmaking 101 tribute and not a multi-million dollar remake. 

Will Smith, bless his heart, does his ardent best as Genie, but he’s just not a great singer, which is readily apparent as he jumps into Arabian Nights to open the film. Between that and the distracting, and frankly just plain awful CGI rendering, he comes across as a Blue Man Group reject looking for work. Hardly a fitting replacement for the inimitable Robin Williams.

Will Smith and Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019). Photo: Disney

With a diverse cast, Disney has corrected its previous mistake of casting all white voice actors, but God forbid any of them actually have a Middle-Eastern accent. The only major character with a semblance of one is Navid Negahban’s Sultan, who sounds more like he’s trying to hide his natural Iranian accent than deliberately speaking with one, while his daughter, Jasmine, has a very distinct American accent. Naomi Scott is a British actress of Indian descent so there is no comprehensible reason for making her affect a fake American accent in a film supposedly set in Arabia. 

As for Jafar, it’s hard to remember a movie villain so deeply uninteresting. He’s not particularly menacing, nor is he funny or clever. He just sort of exists as The Big Bad and there is no point at which he steals a scene despite literally stealing the kingdom. The most interesting part of Jafar is his parrot, Iago (voiced by Alan Tudyk), although even he barely raises a wry chuckle. 

Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019). Photo: Disney

In fairness to the film, both Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott put in decent turns and they make a lovely couple with genuine chemistry. But there is no point where it feels even remotely possible that Aladdin isn’t going to get the girl, so it’s hard to really feel any passion or connection to their story.

Neither particularly funny nor dramatic, Aladdin never escapes the success of its predecessor. It doesn’t even bother to try and be different from the original, which makes its failures all the more prominent. At 2 hours and 8 minutes, nearly 40 minutes longer than the cartoon, there is nothing which is improved by the extended length, and instead lumbers through with the pace and grace of a CGI elephant.

Marwan Kenzari in Aladdin (2019). Photo: Disney

Disney’s decision to use washed-up directors past their prime is again on show, and Guy Ritchie’s selection is particularly puzzling. His best films are edgy, violent and not rated PG, so much like the choice of Tim Burton for Dumbo [read the review], Disney appears to have hired Guy Ritchie and told him not to make it a Guy Ritchie film. The result is a movie with shoddy pacing, mediocre singing and acting, and frankly awful writing.

At least Tim Burton’s Dumbo tried to do something unique. This however, is a spectacular waste of money and time, and an unforgiveable money grab that exposes all that is wrong with Disney’s decision to make a quick buck rather than a quality original film. If Dumbo was a failure of rather epic proportions, Aladdin is a monument to mediocrity — a film which fails to evoke any real emotion, be it laughter, empathy or tension, despite being almost a scene for scene facsimile of the magical cartoon original. 

Aladdin (2019) rating: 4/10