Viewpoints | Dec 19,2021
There is a disease in Hollywood, and it is one that induces studios to shove the exact same plots down audiences’ throats. If it was not for the fact that Aladdin made over a quarter of a billion dollars in its first week of release, I would say that audiences were fed up.
Disney, which now owns 21st Century Fox, Marvel Studios and the Star Wars franchise, and thus will soon be producing every single movie we will be watching, is on a binge. It has figured out an easy scheme, repackaging its classic animated movies into live action films. The remakes will not improve on the original ones or digress from them in any significant way. For the most part, they will be shot-by-shot, dialogue-by-dialogue reproductions of most of its great classic movies.
We have already feasted on Maleficent, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book and earlier this year, Dumbo. Only The Jungle Book was good enough to warrant the ticket prices from this pack. Live action remakes on the release schedule are the likes of The Lion King, Mulan, Peter Pan, Pinocchio and The Sword in the Stone.
Aladdin fails for the same reason all of the remakes have or will - none of these movies reimagine the source material and instead completely depend on the cartoons.
Aladdin is the story of a small-time thief that wants to make it big. He gets the opportunity after he finds a Genie that offers him three wishes. He cannot wish anyone killed, brought back to life and, conveniently enough for the plot, for anyone to fall in love with him. Other than these, the sky is the limit.
The film is the classic tale of excesses and indulgence. As the Genie tells Aladdin, most wish for power and money, but they simply cannot have enough of it. Happiness is a complicated thing, and no hero should be able to get it merely by wishing for it. It is a hard lesson Aladdin learns after he wishes to become a prince and win the heart of the Sultan’s daughter.
This film may be a copy and paste of the animated classic but manages not to carry any of the magic. It is not remotely as funny and touching as the 1992 movie. The slight changes made to the plot have mostly only made this movie worse, and the filmmaker’s attempt to make a live-action movie look like a cartoon was not at all flattering.
There are two important changes to the movie. One has to do with the upgrading of Princess Jasmine’s - Aladdin’s love interest - character. In the cartoon, she merely wanted to marry someone of her choice. In this one, she has political ambitions - she wants to take over from her father and become sultan.
This is a change in character that takes stock of the unfortunate sexism and racism that has been rampant in Disney classic movies, and however late it might have been, the studio is trying to address it. The change in Princess Jasmine’s character almost works, if it was not for the fact the character playing her is as stereotypical as every princess there has ever been - flawless in character and looks.
Another glaring change is who the Genie is being played by. Will Smith plays the Genie, in a computer-generated form, as scary as it was projected to be. Smith is a good actor. He is funny, dramatic when he needs to be and one of the most charismatic performers in Hollywood at the moment. But he is not Robin Williams.
“I’m doing it basically, because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything - as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff,” the late comedy legend told a magazine about his decision to play the voice role of the Genie.
Of course, Disney being Disney, the promise was never kept, and they went on to sell “stuff” using his voice work for the movie. But Williams had the last laugh. He played the Genie so good, even an actor as lovable as Smith could not sell it. Williams’ was a performance full of energy, enthusiasm and playfulness, everything this cash cow of a remake is not.
PUBLISHED ON Jun 01,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 996]
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