Film - Aladdin

Daniel White discovered a whole new world as he watched the new Disney live-action remake of Aladdin...

Why are Disney obsessed with re visiting their back catalogue with real(ish) life versions? We have had Dumbo (didn't bother with that one at all) Beauty and The Beast (meh) The Lion King with its pretend real animals and now Aladdin gets the make over treatment. Aladdin is more than your average Disney cartoon for two important reasons. Firstly, it represented the first time Disney had moved away from traditional cartoon animation and moved to more dynamic computer generated trickery. The sequence with Aladdin escaping the Cave of Wonders on the flying carpet was astonishing and at the time totally took my breath away. Secondly, Robin Williams as the Genie with the unscripted quips and ad libs which, of course, made the great man the legend he was. Williams steals every single scene he is in and kinda infuses the film with his madcap lunacy in a way no other Disney film has managed to attain. Aladdin is my favourite Disney film ever and the thought of its legendary status being tarnished just so the over sized behemoth of a studio can make more money sort of revolted me. As I sat down to watch the remake last weekend I remember thinking that this was either going to really really work or possibly end up being the worst cinematic car crash since that horrendously terrible Psycho remake.

I cant believe it! I loved it! I mean, it wasn't just tolerable in a "well let's watch the original again" sort of way. I mean I actually loved it and I think I almost loved it more than the cartoon original. I need to explain why!

Agraba has never looked bigger, brighter and more exotic! I mean this city is huge and the twisty turny streets that Aladdin chases through need a seriously committed Sat Nav system to navigate around them. Aladdin himself jumps into vibrant real life and is a bit of a parkour expert, the Palace guards don't stand a chance with him; so much fun to watch and all while singing at the same time. Mena Massoud is such a fantastic choice in the titular role and brings me to one of the first things I love about this film. I love that Disney didn't Americanise the look of the characters like it did with the cartoon version. It doesn't feel like its been done to be politically correct either, it just feels right! In fact the casting with Aladdin is absolutely spot on! Naomi Scott is so so good as Jasmin and the added connection between Princess and the normal poorer citizens of Agraba is a really lovely touch. Unlike her cartoon counterpart she can really kick butt as well and the added new song (I Won't Stay Silent) may not reach the dizzying heights of Let It Go but it really works within the context of the film. Marwan Kenzari is really evilly excellent as Jafar and the added backstory of his past as a fellow Street Rat does add an extra level to the character.

But Will Smith as The Genie! Wow, just wow. I will be honest and say I am a little bit of a Smith fan ( I grew up watching Fresh Prince) and I have thoroughly enjoyed his work ever since. Smith nicely avoids the whole "homage to Williams" performance trap and creates a new type of Genie in his own likeness. How effective that is depends largely on how much you enjoy a Will Smith performance because be under no illusion it IS a Will Smith performance. The dancing, the beat boxing and the quips are his and not Williams. And it really really works! He doesn't try and better or even equal the original musical numbers he does something different with them! Take ' Prince Ali,' it's bigger, louder, brighter and screams CGI but the centre of the song isn't Aladdin it's all about the Genie. Smith delivers the same strong power grabbing performance but in a way that is very him and not a Robbin Williams tribute act. But the key point with Smith's Genie is he is very very funny. I don't think I have laughed so much through a Disney film since... I can't actually remember!

The interesting thing about this new version of Aladdin is it manages to feel brand new whilst at the exact same time feeling incredibly familiar. The plot is the same and the key set scenes with the musical numbers are also the same. Alan Menken has revisited and expanded on his original score and the orchestrations feel bigger and more intense than before. But this isn't a shot for shot retread, there are differences that add to your enjoyment of the familiar plotting. 'One Jump Ahead' feels more frenetic and certainly more acrobatic than before whilst the iconic 'A Whole New World' is given a jaw dropping sheen as Aladdin and Jasmin fall in love. The same is true with the final battle scenes between Jafar and Aladdin, you know what's going to happen but the film gets there in a different and more impressive way. I loved the addition of a sub love story line between the Princess' maid servant and The Genie, it didn't feel tacked on but made you feel it should have always been there.

I was a little concerned that Guy Ritchie was chosen to helm Aladdin but this isn't your typical Ritchie film. In fact, you don't even notice it's a Richie film but it is a film directed by a seasoned and talented man who knows how to get what he wants from his cast. The problem with Disney films is that they can sometimes feel like a collection of musical numbers held together badly by iffy scripting and overly sweetened sentiment. Whilst this is a Disney film and the sugar is there it hangs together better and you don't find yourself wandering off in between the sparkles and glitter explosions.

I did wonder how the acerbic Iago (the Parrot) and the flying carpet were going to be brought to life and, although Iago isn't quite as ranty as before, it really does work. His transformation at the end of the film is actually a little scary and the Flying Carpet occupies the same space and character as his drawn counterpart. As I mentioned before, your enjoyment of this film will depend on how religiously you hold to the cartoon original, Robin William's Genie and your tolerance of reboots but as someone who loved the first two and generally despises reboots I found myself completely under it's spell. Why not give it a go? After all it is nearly panto season! Oh Yes it is!!!

Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielWBmouth

Images - IMDb

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