The first act was hardly watchable, the third was somewhat tolerable
Never have I thought I’d have to write the following statement: there just wasn’t enough of Guy Ritchie. And yet, here I am, having just watched Aladdin, my single-most anticipated Disney live action remake, wondering how they managed to somehow under utilise Guy Ritchie.
Aladdin hasn’t had the most confidence-inspiring marketing journey. From the early glimpses of blue Will Smith to more recent samples of the entire cast, there’s been much concern regarding the film as a whole. And while there are certain moments of clarity wherein Guy Ritchie’s vision seems to peek through, the bulk of the movie somehow succeeds in being an incredibly static mess with dozens of moving features.
As with almost any tent pole film, Aladdin suffered from the scrutiny of the audience before even being put together. From its almost entirely unknown cast, to the eyebrow-raising choice of Will Smith (which seemed almost like over-compensation for the aforementioned unknown cast), Aladdin seemed to be plagued by polarising decision-making. It didn’t help that the creative direction seemed subject to the diverse polarity as well.
Ritchie’s involvement having been announced in 2016, following the insane success of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, the direction for Aladdin seemed to have been similar: an amplification of the themes and events of the story with some compromise on the larger-than-life aspects of the animated original. This direction was obviously in concern of the musical aspect of the film, but manifested in other forms, including the removal/personification of anthropomorphic characters such as Iago and Abu.
And then Beauty and the Beast struck.
With its Jungle Book-smashing box office numbers, and Ariana Grande-tainted travesty, the direction for Aladdin seemed to take a hard turn. The nitro-heist potential of a Guy Ritchie helmed Aladdin with promises of sword fights across Agrabah’s roof tops, smug heroism, quippy dialogue, over-the-top villainy quickly collapsed and paved the way towards something that may have been better left to Kenny Ortega and the High School Musical crew for the Disney Channel.
And that’s not a bad thing, given how High School Musical 3 is actually a frikkin’ amazing movie.
But unfortunately, the seeming indecisive direction—be it from the studio or creatives—results in a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Shuttling between an actual musical film to a play caught on camera, there are moments where it almost seemed as if the actors were counting tempo before breaking into song.
Throw in shoe-horned “updates” such as having to reassure audience of Jasmine’s feminist standing (which she already was for cryin’ out loud), resulting in an extremely awkward three-minute ballad and a completely out-of-left sub-plot regarding a completely background character, and you’re left feeling confused about what you’re watching before the film vomits its third act onto you.
Compounding the sins of a weak script are the casting of ridiculously talented comic talents such as Nasim Pedrad, who not only succeeds in stealing every scene she’s in, but also leaves you wondering: why wasn’t she cast as Jasmine? Sure, a little of that CGI de-aging may have been needed, but clearly Disney’s got enough in the bank to pull that off. Or, y’now, just make her an older character. Whatever. It would have made the movie better.
Even Will Smith’s patented Will Smith-yness could do little beyond proving how dangerous the power of wishes could be. After all, I had been apoplectic when Smith’s tradition of doing a song for his movies resulted in the fiery train wreck that was Bulldog’s attempt at an anthem for MIB3. Unfortunately, there is a lot of grey area in “I wish Will Smith would do his own songs for his movies.” I mean, there’re classics such as “Black Suits Comin’”, and then there’s “Switch.”
And, of course, it’s the Hitch throwback that we get, complete with unnecessary epilogue dance montage, and beat boxing… yeah, beat boxing.
And on that note on music: Disney, stop getting 12 year old pop stars to re-make classics. No one needs to hear some rando from 5SOUP trying to belt out an Alan Menken and Tim Rice tune.
Aladdin is out now, but if you’re bent on giving Disney your money, just go watch Endgame again. Or wait for Toy Story… or The Lion King… or Maleficent 2… or frikkin’ Star Wars.