Cert PG 128 mins Stars 4
Will Smith unleashes his magic charm in Disney’s confident, colourful and crowd-pleasing live action remake of their 1992 classic Oscar winning musical animation.
Hollywood’s once biggest star delivers a larger than life performance as the giant magic genie of the lamp, and burns charisma, warmth and heartfelt maturity in the role originally played by the comic, Robin Williams.
The story very closely follows the original, with street thief Aladdin teaming up with a genie to win the heart of the princess Jasmine and help save the desert kingdom of Agrabah from the unfettered ambition of Marwan Kenzari’s villainous vizier, Jafar.
Unlike Tim Burton’s lumbering Dumbo remake, this is full of fun, excitement and of course glorious songs, with fresh sparkle given to the diamond tunes of ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘A Whole New World’, with ‘Prince Ali’ is delivered in grand show-stopping style.
Mena Massoud is an earnest and endearing romantic lead as Aladdin, and is game for the thankless task of playing the straight man to not just Smith and the rest of the human cast, but a flying carpet and the adorable monkey, Abu.
I wish his opposite number Naomi Scott, had more to do as Jasmine, but she makes the most of her screen time with constant bridling at the constraints of her gilded cage existence in a star-making performance.
She has enjoyable chemistry with Nasim Pedrad’s handmaiden and knocks her solo song out of the park. ‘Speechless’ is one of two new numbers, and is an assertive anthem about challenging authority which Scott delivers with impressively fierce defiance.
Director Guy Ritchie desperate for a hit as his last box office success was nearly a decade ago, with the second of his and Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes adventures, so it’s a canny movie to style the climax in the CGI manner of a Marvel superhero film.
This rarely feels like a Ritchie movie and whether you consider that a good thing, he’s certainly put a shift in with this huge production, which sees him successfully negotiate the different demands of action, romance, comedy, special effects and big song and dance numbers.
The two eight year olds I took to the screening had a great time even though they aren’t familiar with the original animated version, or with Smith’s lengthy TV, music or movie career, and he’s certainly won two new fans of the next generation.
And as Smith swaggers into silver screen musical theatre, it’s great to see the Fresh Prince discover a whole new jam.