Live Action Aladdin - a Remake at Last or a Remake Too Far?


Disney have just confirmed that another live action film is to be released in 2020, The Little Mermaid, whilst rumours are going hot that “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is next on the list. The list seems to be endless with re-makes of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and one of Disney’s most popular films, Aladdin. But how popular are these live action remakes and did movies such as Aladdin meet with our expectations and live up to the high standards of the original?

To solve this difficult Disney dilemma, I think we need to take a step back and re-examine the success of the original Aladdin animation.

First and foremost it’s important to recap on the now-classic story of Aladdin.  A story of an impossible romance and the unlikely union between a princess and a pauper. Aladdin tells the story of a stubborn princess, who refuses to marry and her unlikely bond with a canny street urchin, the hero of our story, Aladdin.

The original Aladdin animation was a soaring success and achieved sales of over $500,000,000! A success achieved with the help of amazing American voice talent. However, most audiences would agree that the best American voice talent was provided by Robin Williams, who injected the character of Genie with his enigmatic personality. What’s more, the romance of Aladdin and Jasmine seems impossible and would likely never come to fruition… were it not for the magical meddling of the said Genie.

However, unlike most Disney romances, the tale of Aladdin is perhaps overcast by Genie’s amazing ‘acting.’ Although the original Aladdin is an animation, Genie’s impressions and animated antics are far too reminiscent with Robin Williams’ personality and acting style to be considered a coincidence. Genie plays the role of loveable big blue buddy with such charisma and style, leaving audiences wanting more of his whacky yet wonderful wish-fulfilment. We ‘ain’t never had a friend like’ Genie!

So who plays the role of Genie in the 2019 Aladdin remake? None other than the master of rhyme… Will Smith. For those in doubt of Will Smith’s credentials, fear not! Smith is a well-seasoned American voice actor who has provided many excellent voiceovers – such as in the 2004 DreamWorks production Shark Tale. So live animation should be a piece of cake in comparison!

Will Smith’s approach to Genie is certainly less quirky than that of Robin Williams, but then he is following on from Williams’ legendary performance. Adding his own ‘hip hop’ style, Smith has managed to create a character different to the well-recognised animated Genie and we can’t criticise him for trying.

Despite being slightly overcast by the original, the new Disney live action remake of Aladdin still grossed worldwide sales of over a billion dollars- proving Aladdin was a hit in both domestic and international film markets.

A success achieved through a number of factors; from authentic casting to a large production budget and most importantly, Disney’s tale-telling talents!

Focusing on the actors and actresses, it would seem that Disney truly has tried to validate this classic tale through superb casting. The lead role of Aladdin is played by Egyptian born Mena Massoud, believable in the role of Agrabad’ian street urchin Aladdin. Dashing Massoud certainly does look the part when he finally becomes Prince!

Then there’s the role of Jasmine… unfortunately, this princess is slightly less authentic as she’s played by London born Naomi Scott. That being said, Disney cannot be faulted for its inclusivity in picking a global multi-ethnic cast.

The final flourish for this fairy tale comes in the excellent selection for the least liked character in our tale – the villainous Jafar. Although Jafar is played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari, this up and coming actor has already proven his credentials and won many accolades for his superbly sinful acting. After all not just anyone plots to overthrow the sultan and become the most powerful sorcerer in the world…

All in all, despite Aladdin’s mixed reviews, the film still manages to stick to the plot of the well-loved traditional tale making a few updates along the way. The heroine in this film, Jasmine, who in the original Aladdin animation only wanted freedom enough to marry a man of her choice, has been brought smack bang into the 21st century with the Aladdin remake. Instead of a tame desire to marry for love, Jasmine is shown to be ambitious with a desire to be Sultan. Fortunately for our 21st-century heroine, her father passes the throne to Jasmine who is then able to amend the law to her will, husband or no husband. So as far as female empowerment- Disney gave it their best shot.

So whether you think the re-make of Aladdin is lack-lustre in comparison to the original Aladdin – with its fabulous American voiceovers or a fabulous film – you need to watch it to make up your mind (if you haven’t yet). If you have, what’s the verdict? Let us know!   

Featured Image by yumiko124 from Pixabay



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