So, I went into Disney’s Aladdin remake with extremely low expectations. After the Beauty and the Beast remake— with its crap-toned color palette, incredibly awkward “upgrades” to Belle’s arc, highly-hyped but ultimately blink-and-miss-it “gay character” moment, mediocre song addition, and frankly poor casting of Belle (I like Emma Watson just fine, but she’s not a good singer), well. I didn’t have much hope for Aladdin.
The other reason for my low expectations is the Disney promotions themselves. The initial look at the Genie was borderline terrifying, the first trailer looked meh, the second trailer was a little better, and then they put out two more items: a snippet from the “Prince Ali” parade number, and Will Smith’s end credits rap sequence. That along with Smith’s weird look left me feeling like he would be a soulless husk throughout the movie, and even his opening scene of the movie didn’t disabuse me of that notion.
We got to Aladdin and Jasmine’s introductions, and they were…okay. “One Jump” definitely missed a lot of its spark! The choreography felt a bit in shambles. I was very disappointed that Jasmine’s great pole vault bit from the original movie was downgraded— she needed Aladdin’s encouragement to make it happen, rather than pulling it off herself and being smug at him about it. Bummer. Jasmine’s new number “Speechless” is…fine, but it doesn’t feel like it goes with the rest of the movie, sound-wise, it sounds distinctly more pop and less Broadway. She DOES get a lot of great outfits though.
By far the most disappointing element of the movie is Jafar, who lacks all the pizzazz and camp and humor of his cartoon predecessor. Not the actor’s fault; the script tried to give him a little more dimension and it just falls flat.
But then we finally get to the genie and “You’ve Never Had a Friend Like Me”! I was really impressed— the visuals sometimes referenced the originals, often did their own thing, and were completely fun and engaging, as was Smith. What a goddamn relief. “Prince Ali” was better than the clip made it seem, too, though I still think some of Smith’s choreography was a little slow/lazy feeling for such a high-energy number.
The Genie also gets a little arc of his own, it’s lame and unnecessary, but whatever. I was also sad that they didn’t lean more heavily into the Bollywood dance numbers…I think that would have jazzed up “Prince Ali” more, and there’s an actual Indian dance number that just sort of devolves into mildly impressive acrobatics when I think a big dance number would have played better. GO BOLLYWOOD YOU COWARDS.