Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” is neither a train wreck nor a “Beauty and the Beast” level treat.
That’s not for lack of trying, though. Everyone involved, from the CGI artists to star Will Smith, leave nothing behind in this re-imagining of the 1992 animated smash.
You’ll cheer the elbow grease and step over the puddles of flop sweat. What’s left is a cheery adaptation that needs more star power than Smith alone can provide.
Once again we meet Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a clever thief who falls for Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) after a meet-cute moment. She’s ashamed of her royal pedigree. He suddenly wishes he could woo a girl of her stature.
A magic lamp could change all of that. Especially if it uncorks a blue-skinned genie (Smith) as wise as he is all powerful. Getting that lamp won’t be easy, of course. The slimy Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) wants Aladdin to steal it for himself, but this thief doesn’t listen to instructions.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. No one on Planet Earth can replicate the giddy greatness Robin Williams brought to the Genie all those years ago. The live-action part of the equation makes the comparisons even more daunting.
Still, Smith is a certified charmer, and he gives everything he can summon to the role. What he can’t do, sadly, is sing. The erstwhile Fresh Prince is no stranger to the Billboard charts, but rapping and wrapping your voice around a Broadway tune is entirely different.
The other voices here are better, but hardly a revelation. The biggest issue facing “Aladdin?” The main characters beyond Smith lack movie star charisma. Massoud is pleasant but bland. Scott is better, and beguiling at times, but there’s little spark between her and Massoud.
And Kenzari plays Jafar as an annoyance, not a lip-smacking fiend. It leaves the story wobbly, relying more than it should on its CGI-drenched landscapes.
So where’s the joy in “Aladdin?” The film zips along thanks to the forced gaiety on display. The costumes are lavish, the main characters lovely to behold. Smith brings every scene he’s in to vibrant life, assuming he’s not opening his mouth to sing.
FAST FACT: Disney’s animated “Aladdin” gave birth to a Broadway show in 2014. The production debuted in Seattle in 2011 but eventually made it to the Great White Way.
Director Guy Ritchie still can’t put anything close to a personal touch on the proceedings. This is Disney-sized movie making, projects with enough resources to wring smiles from willing audiences … by any means necessary.
Did anyone expect something smaller, more intimate? It’s clear that’s no longer in Ritchie’s wheelhouse following early hits like “Snatch.” Even his “Sherlock Holmes” adventures pack a signature snap that’s missing here.
The live action “Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast” rose above our cynical expectations. “Aladdin,” for better and worse, meets them half way.
HiT or Miss: “Aladdin” boasts blockbuster storytelling in its DNA. You’ll laugh, tap your feet and then leave the theater without remembering most of what you just saw.