Year: 2019
Rating: PG
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours

When the animated version of Aladdin came out in 1992, I was seven years old. As a young boy, I could finally relate to the titular character since the focus of this Disney film wasn’t as much on the “princess” as it was on “Prince Ali.” Consequently, this film has remained one of my favorite Disney films over the years and is one I have mostly memorized after repeated viewings in my childhood. As such, I was partly looking forward to this live-action adaptation due to my love of the original. The other part of my anticipation was because Guy Ritchie was directing it (and I’ve loved plenty of his earlier works).

Having now seen this version of the rags-to-riches tale, I’m in this weird “uncanny valley” of storytelling. Because I have the original memorized, this version of the story was close enough to be predictable but not a word-for-word re-enactment, which is what I found to be slightly jarring in my personal experience. This also extended to the songs, most of which felt a little flat (both tonally and energy-wise), with the notable exceptions being “A Whole New World” and the new song sung by Jasmine (Naomi Scott)—which was likely an opportunity to cash in on the popularity of “Let it Go.” If there were no animated precursor to this film, maybe I wouldn’t have had this reaction.

While there were a few scenes that had the Guy Ritchie visual charm, overall it was a passable film. I did appreciate the realism in the settings and dress of the characters, as well as the additions of the handmaid (Nasim Pedrad) and Arabic text on most of the documents shown on screen. I also could accept that the minor changes to the plot were made to make the story slightly more modern, while also filling in plenty of the logical gaps that were present in the original. Even though Robin Williams’ Genie was a tough act to follow, Will Smith’s performance did eventually grow on me to the point where it felt natural in this version.

A passable adaptation that does its best to improve on the original in spots, I give Aladdin 4.0 stars out of 5.

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