Aladdin Review: A Billion Dollar Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story


“It is sad having a monkey as the only parental authority in your life,” says Aladdin played by Mena Massoud but this is not the only sad thing about the movie. And this is not the perfect way to start the “Aladdin” review. There is no better way actually. Aladdin is a live-action remake of Disney’s 1992 animated film. This is the era of remaking so we can start from here.

Aladdin Review: Just another remaking?

In 2010, “Alice in Wonderland” the animated film from 1951 was remade by Disney into a live-action movie starring Johnny Depp with the Australian star Mia Wasikowska playing Alice. Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” made a billion dollars in the box office and started a mad rush for the remaking of classic fantasy and fairy-tale animations into live-action and photorealistic copies. In time, “Maleficent” (2014), “Cinderella” (2015), “Beauty and the Beast” (2017), and more recently “Dumbo” (March 2019). It was a matter of time before “Aladdin” suffers the same fate. Besides “Dumbo” which made just 353 million dollars in the box office, every other remaking in this list made between half a billion to one billion dollars.

It is a lucrative venture remaking these movies and I don’t expect them to ever stop. There is a huge childhood nostalgia to be harvested and studios and producers are falling over each other to serve you your childhood memories in flesh and blood whether they get it right or not. And with “Aladdin”, they got so many things wrong. But first, let’s see the positive side.

Aladdin Review: What works?

A lot of things. The visuals and special effects are beautiful, from their rich colorful customs which we saw in all its full glory during the chase of Aladdin, the monkey, and Princess Jasmine (played by Naomi Scott) disguised as a street girl, to the magnificent cityscape of Agrabah. And that Ali’s entourage entrance to woe the Princess, so colorful, rich, and glorious.

The performance of Mena Massoud was good, some would say great but I won’t be joining that wagon. His portrayal of Aladdin was really good but there were aspects that were plain basic and these rob him of the prefix great. Naomi Scott was good but I didn’t like that a half-white half-Indian British girl was given the role of Jasmine. Scott looks so closer to white (and can pass as a white woman) than brown (and can never pass as an Arab girl). But the politics of her choosing aside, Scott did her acting resume good things with this portrayal.

Angel Has Fallen Review

And whatever your view of “Gemini Man”, “Aladdin” is the true revelation of Will Smith’s duality. As the genie, he is unnatural, unpleasant to watch, and ridiculous. But as the servant of the now-Prince Ali of Ababwa, he is his charming self and allowed his in-build Hitch show as he coaches Ali through the ways to be a gentleman, a prince, and a lover.

And the songs were good. I believe it was on Cinemablend that the “Aladdin” review writer declared that the soundtracks of Aladdin as “the best soundtracks of any Disney musical ever”. This review was before “The Lion King” was made; even so, it is a huge three-pointer for “Aladdin”. Your saying it was borrowed from the original animation will not fly so high as the markers of this version of “Aladdin” added lyrics to the original songs and wrote a completely new score.

The concept, the story, and the future of this crazy trend

Detractors of “Aladdin” will tell you the concept was all wrong. With remaking of animations such as “Cinderella”, “Alice”, and “Maleficient”, all 1950s shows, one can understand. They were made nearly three generations ago. But “Aladdin” original was made in 1992. The DVD may have gathered dust but it is still very much around. Heck, this is the internet age, you can find and download it online. Why didn’t Disney just reissue “Aladdin” in the box office? So many people would still have gone to the cinema to see it but it would definitely not make one billion dollars. So the concept was a good one economically and the concept gave me a movie to review, I am not about to scoff at a movie that afforded me the opportunity to earn a couple of dollars reviewing this (I kid not).

The main issue I have with Aladdin is the story. It is a silly fantasy story to be told children before bedtime. Or maybe to be shown as a cartoon for children and adults to watch with the eyes of children. As a movie with real human beings, watching “Aladdin” was fun here and there, then demands too much from the viewer in the aspect of suspending disbelief and maintaining interestedness, then comes to an end in a screech of joys for the good characters who all get what they want and the baddies get deserving punishment, and the viewer is left feeling like they have been sold an elaborate, beautiful, and expensive toilet seat.

After Movie Review

There are just movies that should remain animations. Not too many animations surrender their lips to be kissed by the gods of remaking. “Aladdin” is one of them. Thanks, Disney for ruining many people’s childhood memories with this offering. But it made one billion dollars, seems like a closing argument for the show. No one can argue with a billion dollars. And if asked to choose between making a movie that messes up with nostalgias and drives readers crazy and makes a billion or making a movie that earns as high as 8.5/10 score and gets raving reviews but can’t be sure of making two million dollars, we know the answer. This is we then accepting that we live in an age where plot, good plots, and good movies are readily swept aside for the money. This is not sustainable.

More live-action remaking of your favorite movies is coming. They will get many more of them wrong and they may get rewarded with hundreds of millions and break the 10-figure mark, and there is nothing you can do about it. But this capitalistic trend is ripe for a big bomb office bomb. It will come, even sooner than the filmmakers expect. Just believe. “Aladdin” can go rejoice that it has escaped with a gigantic truck-load of loot, but it cannot in all sincerity claim to have made its viewers feel great from watching it.

Amos JC

Amos JC

Amos JC is the head of movies and TV content.