The Reel Review
This family-friendly live action remake of the 1992 Disney animated classic stars a couple of relative unknowns (Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott) as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, with Will Smith (Men in Black) as the big blue Genie from the magic lamp. Based on the Middle Eastern folktale One Thousand and One Nights, the Genie helps the kind-hearted, thieving street urchin capture the heart of the princess while battling the evil, power hungry vizier, Jafar.
Massoud (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and Scott (Power Rangers) both do a fine job belting out memorable and new songs from eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken. The CGI monkey Abu is charming, and the film is loaded with eye-rollingly corny (but crowd pleasing) humor and colorful, elaborate costumes. Disney’s efforts to cast a more ethnically-accurate Middle Eastern cast (among them, Iranian-born Homeland star Navid Negahban and Iranian-born SNL alum Nasim Pedrad, as Princess Jasmine’s father and assistant, Dalia) is admirable.
Unfortunately, the end result of all these great elements is profoundly underwhelming. The paint-by-the-numbers script from co-writer/director Guy Ritchie (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) never really gels, and he attempts to distract from his listless story with very un-Disney-looking, frenetic, bizarre looking CGI and amateurish set designs. Smith, as the Genie, pales in comparison to Robin Williams’ charming, Golden Globe-winning performance in the 1992 animated film. The final result is a mildly entertaining but quickly forgettable family film.
• Jim Carrey was the first choice to play Genie but due to legal troubles was unable to commit to the project.
• When Aladdin asks Genie to “make him a prince,” the Genie produces a prince dressed in pink and lime green, the same colors in the title logo of Will Smith’s 1990 comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
• Frank Welker, one of the most prolific voice actors in Hollywood, is the first cast member of a Disney animated film to play the same character (the Cave of Wonders) in the live-action remake.