It seems that Disney won’t rest until every single animated film in their library has been remade as a live-action feature, no matter how unorthodox it might be. Beauty and the Beast made sense, as while the original film had talking candelabras and teapots, there was still a mystical gothic atmosphere to it and regal visuals that one could imagine carrying over to live action. Dumbo made less sense, as the original film focussed on talking animals and surreal slapstick, and that resulted in a generic bore.
Aladdin is another unusual choice for the live-action treatment. True, the original story has had several live-action films, productions and pantomimes, but this is specifically a remake of the Disney Aladdin, one of the company’s most fast-paced and cartoony films. The 2019 remake tones down a few of the wackier elements of the original, so now we have an Iago that talks less and a stationary Cave of Wonders. This not only makes it feel like something is missing to those who grew up with the original, but makes the cartoonish elements that did remain – like Abu and the Magic Carpet’s anthropomorphism and especially the Genie (Will Smith) in his blue form – feel out of place, which can be distracting.
That said, Aladdin strangely makes the transition to live-action better than the two aforementionded movies. There are less clumsy efforts to explain away the plot holes of the animated predecessor and while it does follow the basic plot of the original, it does feel like its own film with its own feel. Will Smith had some big shoes to fill as the Genie, played previously by the late Robin Williams, but Smith is fun to watch in the role and gets some genuinely humorous lines, rarely repeating jokes from the original. Smith puts his own different-yet-familiar spin on the character. It is a shame, then, that he looks so artificial as a blue spirit (especially since most of the visuals, especially the Magic Carpet, look natural and impressive).
It should hardly be a surprise that 2019’s Aladdin is not as good as its 1992 counterpart, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch, if only out of curiosity’s sake.