REVIEW: Aladdin an extravagant, spectacular and flawed re-imagining

Disney’s classic Aladdin is brought to life in this live-action, breathtaking picture.

Through the fantastical colours, smooth singing voices and stylish bombast, it’s a delight for the senses, even if the iconic characters sometimes falter in this remake.

In the hands of Guy Ritchie — yes, the man behind Snatch and Sherlock Holmes — this film has his distinct panache, for better or worse, but this family-friendly vehicle really soars due to the veteran filmmaker’s sure-handed style.

Canadian actor Mena Massoud, a star of Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan series, is charming and handsome as Aladdin, even if he is the weakest cast member in terms of showcasing his depth. He’s serviceable, and with some more acting credits, could become a reliable leading man.

But it’s the performance from Power Rangers’ Naomi Scott that absolutely makes the movie. Her performance as independent, headstrong Jasmine is incredible, and Scott has created a role model for generations to come.

Villain Jafar is played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari, and he’s brooding, interesting and pretty convincing here. I really, really dug his interpretation.

As for the Genie, it’s made clear from the first frame that no one, especially Will Smith, is out to replace the late comic genius Robin Williams brought to the 1992 animated original. Williams’ voice performance will never be forgotten.

But like Heath Ledger did with the Joker, as he faced pressure to “out-do” Jack Nicholson, Smith simply did his own, skillful interpretation of the character. This is not a cookie cutter retread, and frankly, Smith is in the best comic and dramatic form he’s been in years here. He’s an absolute delight, doubters be damned.

Criticisms of Aladdin poured in upon its release, claiming it was neither as nostalgic as The Jungle Book nor as well done as Beauty & the Beast. However, it’s a beautiful tale and it will tug at your heartstrings, hard as you might resist.

It’s overlong, sometimes overblown and Massoud isn’t the revelation I hoped he’d be as Aladdin, but this is a remake that took chances and swung for the fences.

Though it didn’t all work, the mix of style and substance here was more than enough to make me happy I revisited my childhood with this remake.

3.5/5 Stars

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