Aladdin

Out of all of the Disney remakes this year, I think Aladdin got the worst rap before it came out. Specifically, no rap at all. Didn’t Will Smith used to make a song before starring in movies? I want the 90’s back. (The 90’s that gave us the Aladdin original).

The people did not like Smith as the Genie. But he had the impossible task of doing what Robin Williams did, in live action with graphics, and not just voice acting. And Williams was crazy good at what he needed to do.

I think a lot of hate came from people who knew nothing of the Broadway version of Aladdin that already existed, where the Genie was typically played by a black man and done in a way like Smith is likely to do.

And hate by people who don’t know about Broadway is hate we can ignore.

genie
This is Smith, ignoring the haters.

Prince Ali, mighty as he, and technically not real. Because that’s not how this story starts.

Instead, we have a street rat named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) with his monkey, Abu. They steal, they give to the poor, and they live lavishly in the city in secret. Well, not rich, but the sites are sweet.

One day, he meets a princess in disguise, Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and they hit it off. He doesn’t know she is a princess though, and it is a surprise to him when he finds that out in the palace! Well, this also gets him arrested, led by the royal vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who really just wants to use him to steal a magical lamp from a fucking tiger head sand cave. Whoa.

Anyways, lot of crazy stuff started happening. A genie in a lamp (Will Smith), wishes, and trying to pretend to be a prince to get with a pretty and smart lady. Oh yeah, magic, and lies, and singing.

Also starring Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, and Navid Negahban.

jasmine
This whole knew world has a lot of beards!

With remakes, we are allowed to compare to the originals. This has all of the songs from the original, plus about 2 more given specifically to Jasmine. This film does a great job of expanding Jasmine. In the cartoon, Jasmine feels trapped and then uses her body to help defeat Jafar as a distraction. In this film, she is seen as smarter, wanting to get out, but also doing a lot more shit on her own. She tries to take the lamp, causes more distractions, and just makes sure everyone knows she is here to kick ass. Jasmine is much improved in this version.

Another plus is the Genie. He isn’t improved, but he is different and still fun. The references are nice, the jokes and callbacks work, and he is a fresh face in this film.

Unfortunately, the rest of our leads aren’t as great. Massoud never seems to capture the thrills of the cartoon or whimsy, although I did laugh at his jam jokes. Jafar is so much worse than the cartoon. He barely feels conniving and never that threatening. Iago is completely pointless in this one. The Sultan is really just a body.

The city and palace are full of color, but also seem to feel like cheap imitations. They feel and act like a movie study, and don’t reach any level of realism I’d expect with those Disney budgets. It looks like something they could have made for a TV movie.

Overall, it could have been a lot better. It didn’t have to feel rushed or so fake. It could have made the male leads like, better or at least as good as the cartoon. But the improvements to Jasmine and extra songs are worth admission alone and the best Disney remake of the year.

2 out of 4.

Dumbo

The first of the three Disney remakes this year, Dumbo has always felt like an odd choice for several reasons.

First, the original Dumbo doesn’t have a whole lot of plot going on for it. It is a simple story, so they will have to expand a lot of it in order to be worth a revisit.

Second, it was going to be directed by Tim Burton. For the most part, everything he has touched lately has been pretty shit. It has been five years since Big Eyes and 12 years since Sweeney Todd. A lot of forgettable things in between. Could he reimagine it, or will he just make it his basic Burton brand?

And thirdly, like…who the hell cares about Dumbo? Honestly? I can honestly understand most of the remakes, but I can’t imagine Dumbo was high on the list of the average viewer of something they wanted new and updated.


That doesn’t include the people who say no to every remake.

Our main-est adult character is Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), an amputee from World War I (not called that during the movie) has returned home for work, and well, is going to work for the circus. His old boss (Danny DeVito) gives him the job to take care of the pregnant elephant, and Ms. Jumbo gives birth under his watch to a strange, large ear having elephant baby.

What a weirdo! And when they show him off eventually, the crowd makes fun of him, calls him Dumbo, and that makes his mom so mad, she gets angry and causes a ruckus, so they have to get rid of her. Damn.

Well, Holt’s kids are with him, and Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) take a liking to Dumbo. Shit, they find out he can fly if he has a feather. That sounds fun. That sounds like something that can be exploitable!

And exploit the circus does! More and more stunts, bigger and bigger audiences, more and more money!

Also featuring Michael Keaton, Eva Green, and Alan Arkin.


This frame went on to inspire the film Joker.

The original Dumbo came out in 1941, so that means two things. Honestly, a lot of people have probably never seen it. And sure, 78 years is probably long enough to wait for a remake. Much longer wait for more films. I won’t hurt them for that.

For those that saw the original, there is not a lot of film after Dumbo both learns to fly and learns to do it whenever he feels like it. So a lot of this film takes place after that, which is great. I need expanded stories.

However, they sure picked a dull way to expand his story. Just more exploitation and sadness, and corporations taking over corporations as some weird meta explaining what Disney is doing to everything.

The cast of characters are completely ones that no one will care about. Our lead girl to help inspire the youth of the world has the personality of “liking science” and apparently that is good enough.

And honestly, this whole thing was unappealing to look at. It felt too dark physically at times.The animation never grappled with me, and yes, this film oozes Burton.

I would say this is the biggest live action mistake Disney has done, but I would watch this film a dozen more times before I ever watch either of the Alice films again. Which are directed or produced by Burton too. Ah, now we know where the major problem lies.

0 out of 4.