With its live-action remakes of animated classics, Disney seems to have two speeds — “full out” and “slow and steady.” “Aladdin” is the first to fall in between.
I’m going to assume we all know the basic story and skip the summary portion. If for some reason you aren’t familiar with “Aladdin,” I’m so sorry that life has not been kinder to you.
In the interest of full disclosure, “Aladdin” was one of my favorites growing up. It currently falls right behind “Pocahontas” and “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” I say this because I’m fully aware that it impacted my viewing of this new incarnation.
In some ways the film feels bigger than its animated predecessor–Jasmine’s story is fleshed out, the Genie plays a larger part. In other ways it feels much smaller–Agrabah isn’t quite as sweeping, the Cave of Wonders is less wonder and more cave.
To those who love the original, you’ll still see some of it in this version. The original Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and Howard Ashman songs are all shown the respect they deserve and in some cases given a bit of an upgrade.
Pasek and Paul’s new song for Princess Jasmine, “Speechless,” feels a bit out of place style-wise, but its message and melody make it easy to forgive the lack of mesh with the overall score. (Spoiler alert, it turns out a princess can want more than to get married or not get married)
Of course, I do have to address the elephant in the room. No, not Abu, but the big blue man himself–the Genie. First of all, Robin Williams will always be the Genie. To those of us who grew up with the original animated film no one will ever come close.
However, Will Smith gives an impressive performance and is an acceptable Genie for the new generation of Aladdin fans. He manages to pay homage to the original character while still very much making it is own.
It’s hard not to want this Aladdin to be more, but at the same time this updated take on a very old tale is perhaps just what we need right now. It’s light, bright, goofy, and fun.
…just for fun: