When thinking about Disney’s 1992 animated classic, Aladdin, it’s hard not to think of Robin Williams’ central performance as the Genie. And quite rightly too, as he not only stole the show but pretty much was the show. The film was sandwiched firmly in the centre of Disney’s Renaissance period, spanning from the very late 80s and all throughout the 90s, when they returned to making big budget, commercially successful animated features based on well-known stories. It was wrapped up with the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King (the only film to beat it at the worldwide box-office within that era).
Fast forward 27 years and we find ourselves not in a second coming of the Disney Renaissance but at a time of their total global box office domination. Utilising the advantages of modern technology, and possibly dancing with the notion that no original ideas any longer exist, Disney are systematically remaking all of their back-catalogue animations as live-action uber-spectaculars (The Lion King is next and coming soon). Aladdin is the most recent amongst the studio’s properties to receive the half-CGI-half-human treatment. And, why not?
We’re living in different times and our movies need to reflect that. While many aspects of 1992’s version were questionable by today’s standards – from the portrayal of Arab characters to the role of Princess Jasmine – then they were just very much of their time. And that’s that. And we are now very much of this time. And this re-imagining reflects that change in time, norms and values. And reflects it in a big shiny mirror of dazzling entertainment and fun. Everything a Disney movie should be.
Will Smith is clearly having the time of his life, throwing off the shackles of his superstar status and the pressures of filling Williams’ boots and just cutting loose, enjoying a new lease of life as the all-singing-and-dancing-sometimes-rapping 2019 Genie. It’s a wholesome and rounded comedic performance and, sure, it’s not as zany and madcap, and ultimately not quite as hilarious, as Williams’ turn but then again, it was never going to be. Robin Williams was a true genius, a one-off, and so that simply cannot be recreated. Credit to Disney and director Guy Ritchie for not even trying.
Smith, instead, conjures a character of his own creation and energy, who is fun and funny and entertaining. He just can’t quite steal the show from the excellently cast eponymous hero and Jasmine, played with quality and swagger by Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, respectively.
The classic songs from the original are still here, inventively modernised, and there’s even a new number thrown in showcasing one of the many 21st Century-appropriate-Disney-value messages: stand up for yourselves young women of the world. Not a bad message and not a bad film. Far from it, in fact.
Take the kids or just take yourselves as kids from 1992 and take a magic carpet ride…
- The IMAX release of Aladdin will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology.
- The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX’s customized cinema geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique environment that will transport fans into the action like no other movie-going environment can.