‘Aladdin’ Remake Rubs Critics Differently, From ‘Rip-Roaring Spectacle’ to ‘Cinematic Karaoke’

“It’s the guy behind the camera who should be doubted. And stuffed into a small lamp forever,” one critic says of director Guy Ritchie

Last Updated: May 22, 2019 @ 9:07 AM

The backlash after the first few trailers and teases for Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin” were loud and clear, with audiences perplexed at the look 0f Will Smith’s blue, CGI Genie.

But while some critics in their first reviews of the film say “Aladdin” was as disappointing and unnecessary a remake as feared, others were quick to say that any concerns about Smith were wildly overblown.

“Like ‘Dumbo,’ the new movie is a big, lavish fantasia that no one asked for or particularly needs,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty wrote in his review. “And yet, the new ‘Aladdin’ is hardly the folly that the advance bad buzz prepared us for. The candy-colored costumes and production design are stunning, Alan Menken’s songs are as infectious as ever, the dance numbers have an electric Bollywood flair, and some of the bazaar chase sequences have a ‘Young Indiana Jones’ sense of rollicking, Rube Goldberg fun. But mostly it all feels too dutiful, too familiar.”

Currently, “Aladdin” has an unofficial score on Rotten Tomatoes of 65% and that matches how conflicted critics feel toward the film. The review in the Associated Press pointed the blame at director Guy Ritchie rather than Smith, with others agreeing that Ritchie’s direction feels misplaced for a fantasy musical.

“It’s pretty clear after watching the new live-action ‘Aladdin’ that doubts about Will Smith’s casting as the Genie are overblown. It’s the guy behind the camera who should be doubted. And stuffed into a small lamp forever,” Mark Kennedy wrote. “Guy Ritchie — that lover of gritty gangsters and violent action — was always an odd choice to helm a big Disney romantic musical and proves utterly the wrong guy here. ‘Aladdin,’ in his hands, is more like ‘The Mummy’ than ‘Frozen.’ This is an ‘Aladdin’ with a torture scene and pointlessly artful fast-slow-motion action scenes.

Critics were equally split on the stars Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as Aladdin and Jasmine. Some celebrated the film’s additions, namely a new song of empowerment as belted out by Scott, while others felt the moment was shoehorned in. Others agreed that Massoud was an instant heartthrob, even if they felt his singing was a little flat.

See some of the other reviews below:

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“Aladdin,” though, feels pointless. It’s cinematic karaoke. It’s an ice show without the ice. It’s also and foremost an example of directorial miscasting, for this is a Guy Ritchie musical — a frantic, “Kismet”-adjacent musical — made with the lightness of touch and blithe cinematic charm you’d expect from the man behind “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and the steampunk “Sherlock Holmes” pictures.

William Bibbiani, TheWrap

The original “Aladdin” was an innovative motion picture, heralding a new era of CG-assisted animation and celebrity stunt-casting. It was bold and exciting. The remake rehashes the original in a pleasing but perfunctory way: It’s extremely satisfying to see these roles finally filled by non-white actors, but the movie still feels like a wholly western interpretation of one of the tales from “One Thousand and One Nights.” The protagonists speak with the most American accents in the cast, the musical numbers are almost exclusively in the Broadway tradition, and apparently, nobody thought that Smith wearing shackles and cheerfully living to make life easier for his “master” would have a disturbing subtext. Or, rather, “text.”

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

The one big-ish changeup here is the lovely Jasmine, who is made a bit less of a passive, tiger-owning pretty face. Now with more agency, she gets a brand new song called “Speechless” in which she wails her desire to be taken seriously in a dude-run society. Her dreams are made all the more forceful by Scott’s striking resemblance to Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Jasmine’s out to slay, too … symbolically. Massoud and Scott make a live-action “Aladdin” succeed on a different level than a cartoon can — as a teary romance. “A Whole New World” is more moving than the original.

Kate Erbland, Indiewire

The most surprising part of Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin” isn’t that it’s far better (more fun, more frisky, more coherent) than a string of maligned trailers have let on, it’s that no one ever got the bright idea to rename the whole thing “Genie” and turn all of the film’s attention on Will Smith. While early looks at the film — especially scenes that focused on Smith turning on the bravado with a vibrant song-and-dance — were received badly enough that both Ritchie and Smith were asked to respond to the critical jabs, within the context of Ritchie’s warmly silly film, they work. They really, really work. That’s not to say that Ritchie’s live-action treatment of the beloved animated classic doesn’t have other elements to recommend it, but Smith puts on such an outsized performance that it’s easy for him to overshadow its smaller joys — and when Genie is suddenly silenced in a limp third act, the entire film suffers.

Mark Kennedy, AP

It’s pretty clear after watching the new live-action “Aladdin” that doubts about Will Smith’s casting as the Genie are overblown. It’s the guy behind the camera who should be doubted. And stuffed into a small lamp forever. Guy Ritchie — that lover of gritty gangsters and violent action — was always an odd choice to helm a big Disney romantic musical and proves utterly the wrong guy here. “Aladdin ,” in his hands, is more like “The Mummy” than “Frozen.” This is an “Aladdin” with a torture scene and pointlessly artful fast-slow-motion action scenes.

Josh Spiegel, /Film

But where hand-drawn animation once was able to bring to life such impossible wonders with fluidity and dexterity, CG has rendered it mostly distracting, if not outright unnerving. Smith, as energetic as he was in his early movie-star days, isn’t able to overcome the intensely creepy sense that the CG version of the Genie just doesn’t look right. When the Genie transforms himself into a human, it’s all well and good; when he’s CG, the effect calls to mind the uncomfortable qualities of Tom Hanks in “The Polar Express.” It just looks wrong and unpleasant.

Chris Nashawaty, EW

Like “Dumbo,” the new movie is a big, lavish fantasia that no one asked for or particularly needs. There are no new wrinkles, no real new take. Even the original’s more objectionable Middle Eastern characterizations are left untouched — the one place that it could have really used an update. It still has more stereotypes than you can shake a scimitar at. And yet, the new “Aladdin” is hardly the folly that the advance bad buzz prepared us for. The candy-colored costumes and production design are stunning, Alan Menken’s songs are as infectious as ever, the dance numbers have an electric Bollywood flair, and some of the bazaar chase sequences have a Young Indiana Jones sense of rollicking, Rube Goldberg fun. But mostly it all feels too dutiful, too familiar.

Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent

Disney’s live-action remake of its 1992 animated feature is a rip-roaring, old-fashioned matinee-style spectacle that turns out far better than we had any right to expect. After the dismal debacle of his previous feature “King Arthur,” Guy Ritchie directs with such humor and flair that you half suspect that he must have been rubbing the magic lantern himself and getting some help behind the camera from the Genie. The film boasts lively performances, flamboyant musical numbers and clever special effects. It even has a political dimension, making some telling points about the treatment of women in patriarchal Arab societies.

Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

No one really needs this mostly middling, fitfully funny and never unpleasant movie. And the movie itself seems cheerfully aware of that fact as it deftly lifts lines, beats, characters and songs from its 1992 predecessor, every so often punching up the comedy, wrinkling the plot and injecting a dash of politically corrective subtext.

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