Aladdin ★★★★

Couldn’t find a more perfect Aladdin. Mena Massoud is an utter charmer and embodies lovable thief better than can be expected. Unsurprisingly the rags-to-riches, love story is achingly earnest alongside some cast (Will Smith) and a director that doesn’t seem to one-hundred percent understand what they’re making. When Will Smith is on as the genie he is on--but for most of the film he is at a 5 and I need him at, at least a 8. Guy Ritchie is an action director I quite enjoy and his comedic timing mixed with action works well. However, a lot of the comedy from the animation which is adapted here, comes from the choreography of the musical numbers and dancing. Guy Ritchie alters the speed by time-ramping and slowing certain moments to jarring, unpleasant affect to get the songs to match a not-quite-snippy enough number (see “One Jump Ahead”).

The additions of Jasmine’s song “Speechless” left me wanting more, especially because Naomi Scott has a lovely voice and has incredible chemistry and acting chops on display for the moments we do get of her. The sets left a lot to be imagined and still more to be filled in with CGI. It looks like they spent a decent amount of cash on a backlot making a set and they should have spent a lot more because at no point did it look like a real place. This is fine for the fairytale romance scenes--”A Whole New World” where they’re up high and thinking of love--but when they’re among the streets and discussing the quality of life of the people it feels lazy.

I’m a sucker for a Bollywood number but did they not do their research. This fictional Agrabah is inspired by tales like “The Thief of Bagdad” which takes place in Iraq. Even if you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole the film itself says Agrabah is set in the Middle East. India is not in the middle east. That’s just silly and also cultural appropriation i suppose but like times two?

This all being said, it was delightful. I had a lot of fun. I was invested in the story, Aladdin’s journey and the thematic elements. I wish Ritchie would have explored these visually in a more thoughtful and exciting way.

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