Published On: Thu, May 23rd, 2019

‘Aladdin’ showcases Will Smith humor, great CGI to deliver a great film

Opening Friday, May 24th, 2019, Guy Ritchie’s version of Aladdin is quite a surprise for audiences even without the incomparable, late Robin Williams lending his talents to the production.  It’s expected that everyone starts out the film ready to judge Will Smith’s genie as sub-par. After all, the Fresh Prince is not known for zany impersonations and hyper-active zoomies across the set that you see in any of the Robin Williams stand-up specials, interviews, or many of his films.  But Smith brought his own sense of style to the role giving a solid performance as Genie. Smith brought in elements of his Fresh Prince and Men in Black agent, then combined them with elements of the original spirit of Williams’ portrayal.

Move over animators…..there’s a new CGI genie in town!  That’s the biggest factor that allowed Smith to pull this off.  The CGI work was fabulous! Gone are the days of not being able to match the creativity and originality of an animated production.  We’ve all seen the incredible modern films of the Star Wars franchise and are well aware of the wonderful results of CGI today, but for some reason, it seemed hard for audiences to understand that this would work for Aladdin.  Again, this is probably due to not being able to imagine any other actor taking on this iconic role.  After all, Williams was set free to “be himself” with Genie and the animators just had to follow his lead.  So without Williams, it seems many of us just couldn’t think clearly anymore and recognize the impact CGI would have on the film and the Genie character directly.

Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine and Nasim Pedrad as Dalia gave wonderful performances as they strolled across the ornate sets in the fabulous costumes that helped transport the audience to the fictitious Agrabah.  While some viewers may think the sets were not of the highest caliber for such a major motion picture, I was personally impressed with the level of detail presented. Again, CGI painted the town making Agrabah as much of a real place as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.

Mena Massoud (Aladdin himself) truly brought the character to life.  This fresh young face will probably be seen on many more screens after his wonderful performance.  He was excellent as the “diamond in the rough” interacting very well with the CGI characters throughout the film.  

There are really only two negatives worth mentioning.  First Marwan Kenzari’s portrayal of Jafar just wasn’t scary.  Had they possibly used a bit of special effects makeup to exaggerate some of the actor’s facial features, he might have been more convincing as the menacing Jafar.  Secondly, there are scenes throughout the film where the film appears to be “sped up”. This appears to be done to show that people are moving unnaturally because Genie is controlling them, but it’s really just annoying to the viewer.  

Big screen or little screen?  Definitely one you’re going to want to watch on the big screen.  If Disney continues making live-action films of this caliber, the traditional animators are going to have to kick things up a notch to keep up with them.

Aladdin receives 4 out of 5 stars

Review by Debbie Sage

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