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Aladdin Movie Review

Same World, New Parts

Guy Ritchie's "Aladdin" is the latest recreation of a Disney classic (a sentence that is being written more and more these days), and it succeeds and struggles in the same ways most these adaptations do. The biggest challenge is finding the balance of creating new material, in order to bring a new generation of movie-goers in, and hitting the sweet spot of nostalgia for those looking to escape back into their childhoods. "Aladdin" succeeds on the latter more than the former.

The new "Aladdin" is a little over thirty minutes longer than the animated version, and it becomes abundantly clear when the movie begins to spin its wheels. There is an exciting creative opportunity for filmmakers to expound upon a condensed, well-known story and take it in interesting routes, but it feels like Ritchie and company are trying to meet a runtime rather than add to a story.

As the story goes, should this be your first trip into the city of Agrabah, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a lowly "street rat" who travels around with his loyal monkey companion Abu, stealing things to get by. He crosses paths with a princess-in-disguise named Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who tries to create her own identity outside of the palace. Meanwhile, the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) is plotting to overthrow the Sultan and won't let anyone stand in his way. When Jafar feels that Aladdin might disrupt his plans in any way, he traps him in the Cave of Wonders, where Aladdin finds a magic lamp that release a wish-granting Genie (Will Smith).

A story like "Aladdin," as a live-action adaptation, is rife with opportunities for gorgeous visuals, and sets and production designer Gemma Jackson doesn't disappoint. The costumes by Michael Wilkinson offer vibrant colors and details that bring the story to life visually. Ritchie was always an interesting choice as a director because he loves showing off from behind the camera, but in the last act in particularly he can't help but transition to muddled visuals and ghastly CGI effects. Any goodwill built up in the first half of the movie starts to evaporate.

Massoud and Scott have lovely chemistry together, bringing so much heart and well-earned emotion to their magic carpet ride during "A Whole New World." The theater applauded during this moment and rightfully so. Going into the movie, all eyes were on Smith's interpretation of the Genie, a character with a huge legacy and giant lamp to fill. Smith, knowingly living in the shadows of Robin Williams' iconic voice performance, puts his own spin on the Genie and brings his own energy to the performance. Some character choices feel distracting more than inspired, but that could be said about a lot of "Aladdin."

"Aladdin" is second Disney adaptation of the year already - and not the last - which opens a discussion about the continued corporatization of stories we hold so near to us. However, as a final product, it offers enough adventure and callbacks to the original. It's all the new stuff that gets in the way.

View my Flipboard Magazine.



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