A whole new, live-action world is worth a ticket

3 out of 5 Stars

By Aaron Reynolds

The Surveyor

In 1992 the original “Aladdin” debuted from Disney and signified the first true classic for early millennials. “Lion King” would not arrive for another two years and it paved the way for many monumental Disney (and later Pixar) movies thereafter.

The original was a box-office phenomenon. It earned over $500 million in worldwide sales and became the first animated feature to reach half a billion. The story, along with one of the most beloved children’s soundtracks of all-time, established a blueprint for “Lion King” to follow.

Given the financial implications, the opportunity for Disney to remake “Aladdin” seemed inevitable, which is why 27 years later it has been repackaged into a live-action version released under the same title.

The new “Aladdin” stars Mena Massoud (Aladdin) and Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine) as its two principal characters. In the live-action edition we are introduced to Will Smith as Genie, an insurmountable role he must take on following the unforeseen, tragic early departure of Robin Williams.

Though it is nearly impossible to fill the shoes of such an extraordinary talent who left this planet way too soon, Smith attempts to replicate the eccentric character in which he has admitted on record he was “terrified” of attempting. Whether Smith is passable as a new Genie or you will never be able to see anyone else in the role but Williams is another topic of conversation.

Meanwhile, relatively unknowns Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott are dynamic enough on the screen to recreate the romance in a live-action version without jeopardizing the characters too much.

For the most part, Disney sticks to the script and doesn’t detour too much from what made the original tick. There is a controversial shift in one character and his portrayal. However, I will not expand further in order to prevent spoilers for those yet to see the new “Aladdin.”

The famous soundtrack is still there were kids back in the ‘90s (now in their 20s, 30s, and 40s) can sing along with a brand new audience of youngsters. The costumes also add a lot to the film and help create a colorful world even if the CGI is not top notch.

The film is directed by Guy Ritchie; who is far more linked to flashy, witty crime dramas (“Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch”) yet tries his hand at a family-centered tale. The biggest knock on Ritchie is he drags the pace of what was a very clean story, into an additional 30+ minutes of screen time that was unnecessary.

It is difficult to find a remake that is universally accepted. It is even harder to do so with a classic, arguably the most successful and beloved Disney movie of all-time (at least in the past 30 years). The new “Aladdin” may not quite represent the original “Aladdin,” but then again who really expected it would conquer such a feat?

“Aladdin” is a timeless tale that is rightful of a new audience and, though loyalists of the original may not appreciate every creative decision Ritchie made with the new version, it is still loyal enough to the classic to deserve a ticket at the box office.

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