I was coerced into seeing the 2019 Aladdin remake by a group of friends who promised it was good. Even though I tend to be against remakes on principle, I tried to keep an open mind and allow the experience to shape me in whatever way it chose.
To be fair, Will Smith did a phenomenal job. He achieved what no one thought he could and was a powerful successor to Robin William’s Genie. Rather than attempting to replicate Genie’s character from the original, he provided his own entertaining interpretation that wowed me.
The musical numbers were all visually captivating and well choreographed, enhanced by the Middle Eastern aesthetic. I loved watching the bollywood-style dancing and listening to the gorgeous music.
This was a very attractive film….
But it wasn’t good.
Because it exemplified all the things that make reboots and remakes so frustrating.
Reboots are notoriously guilty of scrapping plot-points that are perfectly fine and keeping ones that are arbitrary. Or, as in some cases, they will change things for the better, but won’t alter the story to accommodate the alterations they made.
The most obvious example of this in the Aladdin remake is Jasmine.
Jasmine’s character went through a major make-over with this movie. Gone was the idealistic and naive teenager, replaced by a much more worldly and tenacious young woman determined to succeed her father as sultan.
Personally, I didn’t dislike this change. I don’t think there was anything wrong with Jasmine’s original character, but the alteration wasn’t unwelcome.
The issue was they did not adjust the story to suit this new personality makeover.
Because they made her into someone far less naive than her older counterpart, pivotal scenes no longer make sense.
In both versions of Aladdin and Jasmine’s first meeting, Jasmine steals an apple to give to a group of starving children she sees in the marketplace only to be apprehended by the proprietor. The cartoon Jasmine is so sheltered it doesn’t occur to her people have to pay for food, making her actions believable. The live-action Jasmine is way too smart to do something so mentally bankrupt and we never see her do anything this absent-mindedly dumb ever again.
Then, they change the scene where Jasmine thinks Aladdin is dead and replace it with Jasmine getting shot down by Jafar, prompting her to sing her live-action film original song Speechless.
No joke, they spend so long on this scene.
I get that they are trying to make Jasmine her own person and everything to placate the modern feminists, but guys, the movie is called Aladdin.
It’s supposed to be about Aladdin.
No one cares about this stupid country.
The irony is they could have developed Jasmine and kept the central focus on the titular character at the same time. Speechless would have been much more emotionally impactful if they had kept the scene where Jafar lies to her about Aladdin’s demise. Because she stayed “speechless” an innocent and wonderful dude was murdered. Isn’t that way more emotionally investing than hearing about some random country we literally never see or learn anything about?
To make matters worse, Jasmine and Aladdin have zero chemistry in the remake and it’s obvious why.
In the 1992 animated film, we could see why Jasmine would fall for Aladdin. He was a smexy street-wise guy with a heart of gold that filled her dull, pampered life with action and adventure.
Now that she’s a m-fing woman that actually wants the throne (unlike in the original where she outright states she has no interest in being royalty) and is perfectly capable of navigating the streets of Agrabah all on her own, why does she need Aladdin?
What does he contribute to this relationship?
That isn’t to say Jasmine is the only issue, however.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the live-action Jafar was less intimidating than Yzma after she’d been turned into a cat.
Yes, Jafar was a one-note villain in the original, but he was a fun one-note villain. Jonathon Freeman obviously had a blast in this role, going from underhanded and cunning to full-blown bombastic evil mastermind.
But this guy?
I don’t know what his other credentials were but he just looked bored the whole time. His line delivery was more underwhelming than a prepubescent boy at a school play.
It’s frustrating that at one point they actually tried to make him more interesting by revealing he used to be a thief like Aladdin. If nursed enough, this could have made up for his lack of intimidation and made him a memorable villain. Instead, it’s unceremoniously dropped and we never learn anything else about his past again.
What a wasted opportunity.
Oh, remember that awesome scene where Aladdin fights Jafar as a cobra?
Well, in this movie Aladdin and Jasmine fly away from Iago as Jafar morphs him into a large…parrot.
Yeah, instead of a giant cobra, it’s a parrot that chases them around CGI Agrabah.
Isn’t….isn’t that so much better?
Aren’t you impressed?!?
I could go on in further depth if I wanted to.
I could talk about how the guy they cast as Aladdin is only a passable singer and actor.
I could talk about how unnecessary Jasmine’s handmaiden was, or why it makes no sense that Jasmine is apparently the sultan now even though her father is still alive.
But those things aren’t what bothers me most of all.
What vexes me so much about this movie is the same thing I find so offensive about every other remake:
It doesn’t need to exist.
Tell me, apart from making money, what was ever the point of re-making Aladdin? It’s one of the most beloved animated films of all time, receiving critical and box-office success and is forever slated as one of the best films ever made.
There’s this bs comment floating around that “kids these days” don’t want to watch “old cartoons” and we have to preserve these stories for the next generation.
So…..you are telling me kids will watch cartoons that look like this-
But they won’t watch something that looks like this-
Well, let me tell you-
There is a reason films like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and all the rest are considered classics.
People still watch them.
I didn’t view most of these films when they first came out because I was either too little to comprehend the plot, or I wasn’t born yet.
My childhood favorite, Snow White, was made a whopping 49 years before I was born. I didn’t care that it was old. I liked it because I thought it was good.
It doesn’t matter that kids have iPads, or that streaming exists, or that Twitter and Instagram are a staple of modern society. These stories are strong enough to withstand the test of time.
That is what made them good in the first place.
I will no longer endorse the “fixing” of things that aren’t broken.
There are so many other stories out there that deserve funding, why should continue paying people to make crappy Xerox copies of films that have already been made and made better?
You’re welcome to keep shelling out your hard-earned dollars for stuff like this, but I prefer to sit them out from now on.