A brief disclaimer before we get into this review of Aladdin 2019 – and this might be an ‘unpopular’ opinion, but I really enjoy remakes and reboots. Some people hate them, and that’s cool. “The original was so good, it doesn’t need a remake!”, some might exclaim. Others might accuse studios of rebooting a franchise because they’re out of creative ideas for new movies.
Those people might not be wrong on both points. Let’s not be cynical though, for every bad movie remake in history, there have been some truly great ones as well.
However, I kind of see it as song covers. There are some popular songs that have been covered by dozens, even hundreds of other artists. Modern cover bands like Boyce Avenue are making a literal fortune performing acoustic versions of popular radio songs.
And what criteria do we judge a song cover on? How close it sounds to the original performance? Or how the artist covers it, yet makes it their own unique version? Johnny Cash covered “Hurt” by Trent Reznor, and “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode – yet The Man in Black’s covers were so uniquely brilliant and emotional, they practically became Johnny Cash songs.
All right, I’m focusing a lot on music covers, but here’s the point I’m making. The criteria for judging covers, remakes, and reboots is subjective. My criteria for movie remakes happens to be;
- How good are the actor’s performances?
- How does the remake capture the original material without being a shot-for-shot remake?
- Did I enjoy the film?
The last criteria is probably the most important. So with all that said, let’s actually review 2019’s version of the Disney classic, Aladdin.
Casting wasn’t perfect, but the roles fit the bill
From the get-go, the casting decisions for Aladdin was met with some controversy. Some were upset that Disney chose Naomi Scott, a half-English, half-Indian actress for the role of Princess Jasmine, who is ‘decidedly’ Middle Eastern, and they would’ve preferred a much more “ethnic” actress for the role.
Of course, the original Disney version of Aladdin is a smashup of Middle Eastern and Indian culture, so Disney was never really known for 100% geographical accuracy to begin with. And the original folklore Aladdin story is a hodge-podge mashup of Middle Eastern and Asian influence with very unclear roots, so… come on, internet.
Others were upset about Will Smith being cast as the genie, for strange reasons. There was a huge amount of pressure on him for this role, as the original genie was voiced by the late, great Robin Williams. But to be honest, Will Smith is a legendary comedian in his own right, and he was pretty perfect for this live-action adaptation. It could’ve been much worse, like Will Ferrell or something.
Mena Massoud was a great choice, not only because he’s actually Egyptian and thus a believable choice for Aladdin, but because he gave a stellar performance.
Marwan Kenzari made an excellent Jafar, and I’m actually glad they didn’t cast Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of Iago the talking parrot. Gilbert Gottfried’s voice was one of the worst things about the 90s, next to Fran Drescher’s.
So overall, despite what critics say, the casting choices were all absolutely fine, and the performances given were top-notch.
The singing and dancing
Let’s be honest, 80% of the reason we see Disney movies is for the song and dance. The original Aladdin cartoon film gave us some highly memorable songs, like ‘Prince Ali’ and ‘A Whole New World’.
I’m going to be completely honest, I went into the theatre expecting the original soundtrack to be butchered with Will Smith raps, but… it wasn’t? I mean, Will Smith lended a kind of hip-hop influence to the original songs, but he did it in a style that blended very well with the original material. He wasn’t rapping, per se, but singing the original material in his decidedly unique Will Smith hip-hop style, but still remained pretty true to the original themes.
The dance choreography and costumes were excellent, especially during ‘Prince Ali’ – they went full-blown Bollywood mode for that scene.
So if we judge 2019’s Aladdin based on the three criteria points I gave at the beginning of this article, then this was a fantastic remake. I feel like Will Smith redeemed himself for the absolutely horrible remake of The Karate Kid, and overall, it’s a great live-action retelling that will satisfy your 90s nostalgia. And children won’t care about 90s nostalgia, so they’ll enjoy it anyways.