Next in line for the Disney-animations-transformed-into-live-action treadmill is Aladdin. What’s most interesting about this one is the fact that it’s helmed by Guy Ritchie, who – after the underperfroming Man Fom Uncle and the frankly disastrous King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – is clearly in dire need of a hit. (Those who, like me, were secretly hoping for a diamond geezer reinterpretation – ‘Aladdin, you slag, get off my turf!’ – are in for a real disappointment here.) Ritchie plays it safe and manages to emerge with a slice of undemanding, but entertaining hokum, which is probably the object of the exercise.
I won’t bore you with a plot description, but the classic tale has always raised some troubling questions for me, not least this one: why can’t the evil sorceror, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), go into the treasure cave to claim the magic lamp himself, rather than sending young street-thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud) to get if for him? But, of course, Aladdin does go in, and unwittingly unleashes the genie, who gives him the opportunity to present himself to Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) as a potential husband – a move from which much hilarity ensues. Will Smith is burdened with the formidable task of attempting to follow Robin Williams’ memorable voiceover performance as The Genie, which, to be fair, he manages with considerable charm.
Jasmine is given a lot more to do than in her previous incarnation, and there’s an obvious female empowerment subplot going on. Even if her most memorable song owes an unspoken debt to Frozen, it nonetheless judges the zeitgeist perfectly, and seems to avoid any obvious cultural blunders.
If ultimately the film rarely dazzles, it’s nonetheless a perfectly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. I like this, but I don’t love it – and of course, I’m one of those annoying people who wishes that Disney would stop remaking its old hits and give us something new. You know, just for the novelty of it.
Next up, The Lion King. Ah well…