The recent trend of rebooting past series a modernizing them leaves me a bit uneasy. On one hand, it is nice to see a new generation experiencing media that was formative for my cultural identity, but on the other hand it is easy for greed to make such unique ideas come out incredibly generic. I also understand that it is easy for nostalgia to create an unfair bias against a movie that would otherwise be considered good. I will not be comparing the movie to the original but instead be focusing on its own merits. Because of this I will not go into too much plot summary since most people should at least be somewhat familiar with the plot of the movie.
The movie starts off as a framed narrative that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The narrator of the story is Will Smith, and if you haven’t figured it out, this is a Will Smith movie. Now I am not saying that Smith is a bad actor, he is not, I am saying that his overbearing presence seems hurts the movie because most of everything else doesn’t fit the tone. My biggest issue with the recent reboots is the star studded cast. Seems like most of these movie’s cast people not because they fit the roll, but because it will give the movie more name recognition. Unfortunately, this movie is hurt by it’s star.
Will Smith as Genie isn’t a bad choice by any means. Some of his delivery is solid and his singing is good enough to be in the movie, but they make his presence suffocating. They are really trying to get the most out of Smith for what they paid for. Because of this, there is an uninteresting love plot between Genie and the handmaiden that only comes to light because the plot demands it. Some of the songs are modernized so that Smith can have a solo and while sometimes it is ok, they ruin it by adding rap to it. I know Smith had a career as a rapper and I have nothing against rap music, I like it, but it is a problem when an otherwise great song has its rhythm halted because they want to reach the teens in the audience. I can honestly say that this movie is all about Genie and less about the forbidden love story that they keep cutting back as it is remembered. While he isn’t the worst choice for the Genie, I would have liked it better if the focus was on the story instead of Genie shenanigans.
Because of his overreaching presence, the main characters feel like supporting characters. Any of the character development, as little as there is, is kind of briefly mention and that really hurts this movie. This is a movie that is meant to be about breaking out of traditional roles and labels and becoming the truest self. These big moments are rushed because they spend so much time on unnecessary filler. When Jazmin finally fights back and when Aladdin finally accepts who he is, it doesn’t feel as big because there was little in this movie to show them working for that. Sure the musicals numbers suggest that the plot is moving in that direction, but this is the equivalent to an exposition dump. It really does hurt the narrative when the journey to character growth is summarized in song instead of having meaningful scenes that show the growth. I would have rather they removed some of the Genie scenes and Genie’s love interest and replaced it instead with scenes with the actual main characters.
The movie feels incredibly stiff because most of it is shot on green screen. I am not a huge fan of CGI because some of it looks ugly, and this movie has some ugly scenes and that was a huge distraction for me. Some scenes lose their effect as a result. For example, the carpet ride looks cheap and the actors look incredibly uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel magical nor does it feel like they are making any sort of real connection. It is feels like two people standing in front of a camera, swaying occasionally for effect.
In closing, this movie isn’t anything remarkable. It is put together like a bunch of Genie sketches with only the thinnest amount of plot to move you to the next Genie scene. If you have kids, this isn’t the worst movie you will have to sit through. It is honestly one of the best if not the best Disney live action ones I have seen so far. It’s fun enough to watch, but it probably won’t be remembered.