By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Aladdin”; Director: Guy Ritchie; Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Jordan Nash, Taliyah Blair and Numan Acar; Rating: ***1/2
Aladdin and his magic lamp is an inspirational folk tale of Middle Eastern origin. It is one of the best known and most “retold” of all fairytales from “The Book of Thousand and One Nights”, which is also dubbed as “The Arabian Nights”.
Director Guy Ritchie’s version, a musical, is actually the live action remake of the 1992 Disney animation. It showcases only a part of the original folklore, which is nevertheless fascinating and fun to watch, as it enthralls you in many ways.
Narrated in a non-linear manner and set in Agrabah, a city in an Arabian Kingdom, it is the tale of Aladdin (Mena Massoud), an impoverished “riff-raff, street rat” who along with his chattering monkey comes into possession of a magic lamp that houses a genie.
How Aladdin wins the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and stops the scheming Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), a street robber who becomes the trusted Wazir (vizier) of the Sultan, from his nefarious plans, forms the crux of the narrative.
Unlike the original story, the plot of this film is uncomplicated, following its animated version, but offers a few novelty strokes that makes the film both interesting and fascinating.
Will Smith as the huge towering genie is a charming showstopper. His camaraderie with Aladdin is endearing. He captures the ideal form of the character with ample charm, grace and a winning smile.
Mena Massoud, with his deadpan comic energy and agile parkour moves, shines as the vulnerable Aladdin. He is aptly supported by Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. What makes her attractive is her feminism and subtle feminist tinge that her character portrays with equal measure.
Navid Negahbam as the Sultan and Numan Acar as Hakim are flat and perfunctory. But the weakest and sore point in the entire narrative is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Apart from the poorly written character, as an antagonist he is weak and unimpressive both in speech and performance.
Like a typical Disney fare, the film is a visual feast, just like its earlier version with effective animations and 3D effects. While you are caught in the trance of this Arabian folklore, you realise that the colourful canvas is cheerful and exciting. The fantasy of the Genie and the magic carpet, a cave with face of a demon brightens the viewing experience but the fantasy elements in the film lack heft.
Being a musical, the narrative seamlessly meshes the altered version of the classic numbers, “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me”, and have incorporated new numbers like “Speechless” and “Prince Ali”.
While “Speechless” is a bit off-key and low on energy, “Prince Ali” is dazzling and is astutely choreographed. The production quality of this song reminds you of a Bollywood blockbuster.
Overall, “Aladdin” will appeal to audience of all age groups.