Street urchin Aladdin falls for Princess Jasmine as she tries to find out what life is like outside the palace. And when Vizier/wizard Jafar enlists his help to find a magic lamp, maybe his fortunes will change.
Disney continues to create live-action versions of its animated classics by revisiting Aladdin. So let’s address the elephant in the room – are you listening, Spirit of Robin Williams?
Is it the same old Aladdin?
I am a rarity – much as I loved Robin Williams, I didn’t think a great deal of his Genie. I think character voices should serve the film, but Williams was self-indulgent and overpowered the animated movie. I know this is not a popular view. But I liked Will Smith’s take on the role. He honours Williams’ version, but makes the character his own. Anyone devoted to Williams’ genie may be disappointed though.
The story beats remain unchanged. Princess Jasmine has a bit more of a feminist leaning – “Why shouldn’t I be Sultan?” – but that’s fine. And our old friends are present and correct – Abu and the carpet joining Aladdin and the Genie. The story has worked for hundreds of years, and its combination of magic, romance and exoticism is still effective.
The cast, mostly of performers with middle eastern ancestry, do well although I missed the resonant bass voice of the animated Jafar. Marwan Kenzari is nicely oily and malicious, though.
The original songs are all there, too, together with a new one. To be honest, it’s not up there with the originals. And I have two quibbles about the music. “One Step Ahead” has acquired a pronounced bhangra beat which doesn’t suit it, and the sound mix sometimes means that you can’t clearly make out the late Howard Ashman’s rapid-fire and deliciously witty lyrics.
But there is far more good than bad here. It will be familiar to fans to its animated predecessor, to be sure, but it remains enjoyable in its own right.
How did you like Aladdin? Let us know in the comments.