It was only three years ago that Jon Favreau took the original animated Jungle Book from Disney and remade it for a live action version complete with live actors and CGI animals. Since then we have had Beauty and the Beast a year later, Dumbo earlier this year and The Lion King planned to release this July, but much like magic wishes you probably know this come in threes with the latest film to get the treatment out this month – Aladdin.
Off the bat, we have to say this is a controversial choice for some. The original animated film from 1992 with Robin Williams voicing the Genie is regarded as hallowed ground for a lot of people. We are not going to go into that, it’s not going to help you know what you need to know BUT being based on the original film from nearly 30 years ago means we do have to talk about it a little. So expect spoilers, but 27 years seems ample time for you to have seen it yourself.
The original Disney film was based on the middle eastern folktale that was then drafted by a Frenchmen in the 18th century. The basic nuts and bolts you need to know are that Aladdin, a poor thief, comes into possession of a magic lamp powered by an all-powerful Genietm. The basics of the Lamp is that Aladdin can get three magic wishes of anything he desires except for some caveats of no wishing for more wishes. Pretty much the universal standard operating procedure for Magic Lamps. Y’know a few, uh, provisos, a, a couple of quid pro quos.
This was taken by Disney and with a little ba-boom, ba-da-bing turned into the story of a Street Rat trying to win over the Princess while defeating the evil Villian, not with phenomenal cosmic powers but by outsmarting them with a couple of now-iconic songs along the way. This bit you know, so what about this new version besides Will Smith playing the Genie?
The live-action film, directed by Guy Richie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, married to Madonna, etc) is not a copy of that original film. Well, it is and it’s not. While the basic bones are still there with the characters and plot devices the film does add a few variations here and there but not enough to really change the overall story. Unless you really are attached to Gilbert Godfrey voicing a parrot.
It’s like if a friend of yours who loved a movie described it to you, then you made a copy of that description. Though copy is not a fair term to use because it is not a 1:1 going from animated to live action. A lot of the great parts of the original are still here with very minor tweaks, enough to know where they came from. It’s like the cover version of a song but the song is a movie. This is like a cover version of the original animated movie.
Does this mean it’s bad? No, no, no. What it does mean is that it is not aiming for the original audience. The first film is held in high regard and still the same movie that it always was and will be but this film aims (much like the previous and future live-action updates) to tap into a new generation and audience, similar to the approach taken in some areas of the new Star Wars films. While not appealing to the original audience also sometimes called ‘killing my childhood’ this is not who the film is being made for.
There is quite a lot to like about this movie with things really starting once Aladdin has the Genie and most of the original songs that featured Robin Williams are reproduced as closely as possible with the most difference that the ‘Prince Ali’ song is a lot bigger when performed as a live action. Even your Karaoke go to ‘A Whole New World’ still stands up in the new adaption even if your voice cracks when you do it.
So should you go see it? That depends… if you are planning to rewatch the original Aladdin to compare beforehand then probably not. While nostalgia is powerful juju this film is really planning to capture you as the key demographic. If you have not seen the original in some time, you are a fan of all things Disney music, have someone young and impressionable to take, and maybe don’t mind a little Bollywood then this is going to be a film of choice for you. This is classic Disney with songs, underdogs and defeating villains.
And if not – don’t worry, no one is changing the original film and you can rewatch it again as many times as you want still.
Aladdin is in cinemas right now across Australia. At least until you use up all your wishes.