[**1/2 stars / *****]
I have shiny, dazzle-bright childhood memories of watching the fun, breezy, animated version of Aladdin (1992) at a cinema hall in Kerala and that is half the reason why I saw the live action remake.
A spell of miscasting?
Director Guy Ritchie, largely aloof to the content's potential madness, serves up an uneven, abrupt start with songs that just don't fit, couple of actors who are clearly either miscast or misdirected (Mena Massoud is just about bearable as Aladdin, while Marwan Kenzari as Jafar lacks menace and villainy), though Naomi Scott makes up for it by looking absolutely gorgeous and every bit a princess.
I wished to be entertained, a lot more...
It takes Will Smith's genie to crackle, sparkle while doing a straight-faced "Hitch" kind of mentor for the hapless Aladdin for about 20 minutes of pre-interval LOL laughs. The joyous recreation of two jazzy original Alan Menken songs (Friend Like Me, Prince Ali) Will Smith-style (songs the fabulous Robin Williams literally owned) is a mean achievement.
But the build-up doesn't scale any new heights in the second half and Aladdin ends up as a bearable, mostly unnecessary remake.
This version further consolidated my theory that the quirkiness of the Disney original could have been outdone again only in animation by a more animation-friendly director like Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2) or by telling a new story, instead of repeating more of the same old plot. Like, how about a madcap genie origin story, if Will Smith is up for it?
The Will Smith Show
Go watch Aladdin solely for Will Smith's wisecracking, straight-faced comic timing and hip-hop moves and do not expect anything close to spectacular.
I wish, I wish...
Hoping against hope now that Disney will not spoil the unforgettable memories I have of The Lion King (1994) and that Jon Favreau goes better than his decent The Jungle Book (2016) rendering in another (yawn, snore?) live-action remake of an animation classic.