By James Davidson

Disney’s newest live action reimagining of an animated classic is “Aladdin”. Mena Massoud plays the kind-hearted street urchin who falls head over heels for the Princess Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott. The only catch is, Jasmine has to marry a prince, not a commoner, like Aladdin. Aladdin stumbles upon a magical lamp that contains a Genie, played by Will Smith, who will grant him three wishes. He decides to use these wishes to turn him into a prince to try to woo his forbidden love into marriage.

The original animated “Aladdin” was a classic and I was worried that this new interpretation wouldn’t be able to live up to it. I’ve seen most of the other live action remakes Disney has made and all of them seem to have trouble standing up to their original counterparts. They always seem to fall a little flat, which is the problem with trying to remake a timeless classic.

However, “Aladdin” is the best attempt thus far. I was worried about Will Smith playing the Genie. Robin Williams originated the role and his performance was amazing, so I didn’t think anyone would be able to stand up to his portrayal. But, Will Smith did an excellent job of making the role his own; using his own humor and not trying to recreate what Robin Williams did. Will Smith’s depicting of the Genie actually ended up being one of the better parts of the film.

The story stays close enough to the original, but not so close that it’s an exact copy. The director, Guy Ritchie, did a great job at making this movie a great stand alone film, but close enough to the original that fans of the classic will appreciate it.

The acting overall was very good and the casting was spectacular. Naomi Scott was fantastic as the Princess Jasmine. Jasmine has been given a bigger, more independent role in this updated version of the movie and Naomi Scott nailed the role perfectly. Mena Massoud was the perfect compliment to her role. He played the part of Aladdin extremely well and had great chemistry with Will Smith. Smith and Massoud played off of each other very well and added a lot of humor to the movie.

One of the problems I had with the movie, is that the CGI (Computer Generated Image) characters were very fake-looking. All of the animals and the scenes where Will Smith is in the blue Genie garb are very cartoonish-looking and obviously animated. The rest of the visuals are stunning, the landscape of the fictional, ancient Middle Eastern cities is breathtaking in places, but the characters and animals could use more fine tuning.

The other issue I had was with a few of the singing voices. There are a lot of songs in this movie and most of the actors and actresses do a good job singing them. But Will Smith and Mena Massoud’s songs are obviously not done by professional singers. They don’t do a bad job, but are a bit unpolished. This doesn’t ruin the movie, however, I felt it just could have been better with more polished singing.

“Aladdin” is a great remake of a classic movie. It’s somewhat of a “diamond in the rough” and could use a little polishing. But it’s a fun family movie with great acting and fantastic visuals. It’s the best live-action remake of a Disney classic yet and I definitely recommend it to fans of the original. We will probably add this movie to our extensive Disney collection and watch it several times. It earns 4 out of 5 stars.

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