Guy Ritchie’s new live-action remake of Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin saw a great deal of speculation and much scrutiny from the moment its production was announced. While some objected to the remake out of principle and loyalty towards the original, others expressed concern over the way it looked once the first trailers started circulating. All these concerns and more can finally be put the rest because in its new incarnation, Aladdin is every bit the film you would want it to be and more, mostly thanks to the inspired casting of Will Smith in the role of the Genie.
Inspired by the classic Middle Eastern folk tales of the One Thousand and One Nights, the action takes place in the fictional kingdom of Aghraba where amiable street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) meets and falls for the Sultan’s only daughter Jasmine (Naomi Scott), believing her to be a servant at the palace. After a late night escapade to visit Jasmine at the castle, Aladdin is captured by the Sultan’s power-hungry Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who forces him to retrieve a magic lamp that has the power to make its owner’s deepest wishes come true.
After outsmarting the Vizier, Aladdin finds himself in procession of the lamp and is soon granted three wishes by the Genie (Smith) of the lamp. Using his new powers, Aladdin goes back to Aghraba under the guise of the all powerful and handsome prince Ali. After being welcomed by the Sultan at the palace, Aladdin hopes to ask Jasmine to marry him, but unfortunately for him the princess has more pressing political matters at hand, and none of them involve getting married to any prince no matter how rich or handsome he may be.
It’s fair to say that despite any earlier misgivings, Ritchie has given us a fairly adequate interpretation of a story which is every bit as exhilarating and as engaging as the original. From the moment you hear the first big song, there a sense of familiarity that washes over you in the same way it did all those years ago.
While the film suffers slightly from the lack of familiar faces in the principle roles, there is very little doubt that the addition of Will Smith to the mix was a stroke of genius. Making great use of his all-singing all-dancing credential, Smith, it has to be said, is able to carry the bulk of the movie on his shoulders from start to finish. And while there are undoubtedly some moments of brilliance courtesy of Massoud and Scott, you cannot help but feel a little let down by Kenzari’s downbeat interpretation of Jafar.
Ritchie and writer John August have succeeded in delivering the goods and then some. And even if some of the songs appear to have acquire a more modern tempo, there is no denying that all the old magic and most of the things we loved the most about the original are still there. A fitting remake of a much loved classic.