Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Movie review: Aladdin, dir Guy Ritchie (2019)

The audience in the 9pm session that I sat through to watch this movie at Event on George Street loved it and laughed at all the right moments. Some even whistled at the end once the credits started to run. So it’s clear why Disney made this movie: for the money.

But apart from that obvious reason there’s not much about this production that stands out. It is entirely workman-like and predictable although there are a few plot twists that have been introduced here that weren’t in the 1992 animation version. One of these is the attempt by Jasmine (the princess played by Naomi Scott) to become sultan.

In addition to the superb CGI effects used in it, there are a few other small tweaks that have been performed on the story to make it different in some measure from the more-famous version already mentioned, but the director and the screenwriter have stuck pretty close to the script of that production, and people would have been disappointed if they had not. I have also seen the musical of this drama, and that was much better than this, although there is plenty of singing in this version too.

I find it really hard to uncover anything good to say about this movie but people who like Bollywood productions or musicals will probably love it. Will Smith as the genie tries very hard and does a respectable job of entertaining the audience but he doesn’t possess the panache of the late Robin Williams.

It is striking on the other hand how this story has stuck in people’s hearts and minds. Williams’ genie might be part of the reason for the intra-generational appeal of the franchise, but the use of simple ingredients (a thief, a carpet, a lamp) to manufacture a compelling story also makes these products accessible. As does the fact that the basic story cleaves pretty close to the standard Hollywood narrative of the underdog winning the prize.

In this version you also have the standard Hollywood resort to the strange cliffs of Wadi Rum for the scenes featuring the Cave of Wonders. And you get in addition a persistent feminist subplot that mingles with the predictable scenes of Oriental splendour to add spice to a popular tale of virtue rewarded.

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