Arts

Aladdin re-make with Will Smith should have wished for better CGI

Will Smith wise-cracks as a wish-granting genie in the live-action remake of the Disney animation Aladdin

Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Will Smith as Genie
Damon Smith

ALADDIN (PG, 128 mins) Musical/Comedy/Adventure/Action/Romance. Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwen Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, Navid Negahban, Billy Magnussen and the voice of Alan Tudyk. Director: Guy Ritchie

IF A blue genie emerged from a magic lamp and granted me three wishes, I'd contemplate using the first to completely overhaul the unconvincing digital trickery in Guy Ritchie's musical fantasy.

Every time the army of special effects wizards casts a spell over this live-action remake of the Oscar-winning 1992 Disney animation, charm and believability vanish in a puff of smoke.

Abu the kleptomaniac monkey, Rajah the Bengal tiger, and Flying Carpet, which exist on computer hard drives, fail to meld seamlessly with the performances, lavish costumes and colour-drenched set design.

Fantasy and reality are at loggerheads throughout Aladdin, never more so than in Will Smith's motion-captured performance as the wise-cracking inhabitant of the lamp.

Materialising as an oversized Smurf with an angry man-bun, the former Fresh Prince feels stale and synthetic as he attempts to replicate the quickfire verbal gymnastics performed by Robin Williams in the original film.

His performance only catches fire and burns bright when he's allowed to interact in the flesh with co-stars, leading a spectacular rendition of Prince Ali or nervously courting the princess's spirited handmaiden (Nasim Pedrad).

The unlikely hero is street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud), who runs amok on the streets of Agrabah with pet monkey Abu, stealing just enough to survive.

He falls hopelessly in love with Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who resents the rules imposed by her fusty father, the Sultan (Navid Negahban).

Tradition dictates that Jasmine must marry a man of similar social standing so Aladdin is denied the thing he desires most and Jasmine must entertain oafish suitors including Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen).

Meanwhile, the Sultan's chief adviser Jafar (Marwen Kenzari) plots to seize power using a magic lamp, which lies deep within a Cave Of Wonders in the desert.

Only a "diamond in the rough" is permitted to enter the subterranean lair so Jafar dispatches a clueless Aladdin into the bowels of the earth to steal the golden trinket.

Jafar double-crosses Aladdin but it is the wily "street rat" who summons the Genie (Smith) with a cheeky rub and uses the first of his three wishes to reinvent himself as a dashing prince - surely a man worthy of Jasmine's fair hand.

The live-action Aladdin wisely pilfers the toe-tapping soundtrack from the 1992 film, updating the songbook by composer Alan Menken and writers Howard Ashman and Tim Rice with creative sparkle courtesy of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The Oscar-winning duo responsible for The Greatest Showman and La La Land provide empowering lyrics for Jasmine's MeToo-era anthem Speechless, which Scott delivers with fist-pumping gusto.

She shares a gently simmering screen chemistry with Massoud and big musical numbers, especially the romantic duet A Whole New World, are beautifully choreographed for maximum visual impact.

It's a kind of magical.

Rating: 6/10

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