The first Aladdin reviews have arrived, revealing what fans can expect from Disney's live-action remake of the 1992 animated original. For a few years now, Walt Disney Studios has been dusting off some of their animated classics and reinventing them in live-action - to great success. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book were all well received by critics and fans alike, and all proved to be successful at the box office. As a result, Disney has a number of similar such live-action reimaginings in the pipeline, with the latest being Guy Ritchie's Aladdin.
The 2019 live-action remake adapts the 1992 original animated Aladdin movie, which was one of the many successful films to debut during the Disney Renaissance period of the late 80s and 90s. Ritchie's Aladdin sees the titular street rat/thief, played by Mena Massoud, get roped into tracking down a magical lamp. Using the lamp and with the help of the Genie (Will Smith) that resides inside, Aladdin becomes Prince Ali in order to woo Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). However, things go awry when the sultan's vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) deduces Aladdin's true identity and how he became a prince.
Ahead of Aladdin's release this Friday, the first official reviews for the movie are out. Previously, early reactions to Aladdin surfaced online, praising the latest Disney live-action remake. The early reviews of Aladdin are much more split on the movie, with some reviewers finding it to be an enjoyable update of the original, while others argue it's an unnecessary money grab. Below, check out spoiler-free excerpts from early reviews of Aladdin.
Sandy Schaefer, Screen Rant
Aladdin makes for one of the more enjoyable live-action Disney remakes so far, and its updates to the animated version (especially, its removal of the ethnic stereotyping and more brazenly racist elements) largely work in its favor. Yes, this is still the filtering of Middle-Eastern folklore and culture through the lens of a big, shiny American blockbuster, but so was the animated movie, and the representation provided by the new version is sorely needed as ever in the current Hollywood landscape.
Frank Scheck, THR
The combination of diverse casting and female empowerment themes results in a perfectly politically correct Aladdin for these times. The only thing that seems to have been left out is the magic, which is a bit of a problem considering that one of the main characters is a genie.
Chris Nashawaty, EW
And yet, the new Aladdin is hardly the folly that the advance bad buzz prepared us for. The candy-colored costumes and production design are stunning, Alan Menken’s songs are as infectious as ever, the dance numbers have an electric Bollywood flair, and some of the bazaar chase sequences have a Young Indiana Jones sense of rollicking, Rube Goldberg fun. But mostly it all feels too dutiful, too familiar. … Aladdin is…fine, but it has no real reason for being beyond, you know, capitalism. A whole new world, it’s not.
Angie Han, Mashable
With Massoud, Aladdin hits that sweet spot all these remakes are aiming for: The comfort of the familiar, with the thrill of a new discovery. If only the rest of the film had been up to his level, this could have been a new classic. As it is, we're left to wonder why we needed to go through this all again.
Peter Debruge, Variety
Instead of casting another white actor to play a character in an Arabian-set story, hyper-kinetic Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie goes a different route, inviting Will Smith to bring the cocky hip-hop swagger of his early career to the role, while CG-swelling the actor’s muscles to match. Call it "Aladdin and the Fresh Prince of Ababwa” - which could well have been Ritchie’s pitch for a still largely stereotype-driven project that seems to work best when it’s not directly emulating the cartoon that came before.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap
The remake rehashes the original in a pleasing but perfunctory way: It’s extremely satisfying to see these roles finally filled by non-white actors, but the movie still feels like a wholly western interpretation of one of the tales from “One Thousand and One Nights.” The protagonists speak with the most American accents in the cast, the musical numbers are almost exclusively in the Broadway tradition, and apparently, nobody thought that Smith wearing shackles and cheerfully living to make life easier for his “master” would have a disturbing subtext. Or, rather, “text.”
Kate Erbland, IndieWire
There’s plenty of plot to drive Ritchie’s film - a secret identity film bolstered by romance, palace intrigue, and Will Smith as a giant blue genie, what else could anyone possibly want? - but the third act of Aladdin is so laden (and leaden) with major plot points that it wallops all the fun that came before. Younger viewers will surely tune out, but the older set is likely goners too.
Matt Goldberg, Collider
Aladdin [is] a film that’s certainly not a disaster, but also doesn’t make a slam dunk case for its own existence. The songs have new arrangements that aren’t quite as good, it’s 38 minutes longer but little of it is an improvement, and there’s just not the (for lack of a better word) magic that made the original so beloved. It’s just Disney cashing in on its IP and hoping that you’ll buy a ticket to a brand you recognize rather than just staying home and watching the 1992 animated classic.
Aladdin reviewers seem split on what is the best aspect of Disney's live-action remake, but they're on the same page in terms of Smith's Genie. That's to say, the Aladdin reviews praise Smith's efforts to put a new spin on the character originally voiced by the late Robin Williams, but the new Genie simply doesn't live up to the animated version. That said, reviewers largely praise Massoud and Scott's performances as Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively, and their dynamic together, along with Smith and Nasim Pedrad as Jasmine's handmaiden Dalia, are high points of the movie.
Altogether, the reviews of Aladdin are perhaps more mixed than Disney - and fans - likely hoped for after the glowing early reactions. Certainly, when measuring the live-action remake against the animated classic, it was always going to be a tough sell for Ritchie and the Mouse House. However, considering the early backlash to Aladdin and the negative reactions to Smith's blue Genie, many expected much worse from this particular reimagining. In that sense, Aladdin proves to surpass expectations. Next, Aladdin will have to meet fan expectations when the movie hits theaters this weekend. It remains to be seen if Aladdin will be another success in Disney's string of live-action remakes, but we'll see soon enough.
Source: Various (see above links)
- Aladdin (2019) release date: May 24, 2019