Starring Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Mena Massoud
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Know any good hypnotherapist? ̕Cos the best way to enjoy this leaden live-action remake of Disney’s 1992 animated classic — about a street urchin trying to wow a princess, with the help of a blue genie he freed from a magic lamp — is to suppress all memories of that movie.
Despite all the scale and pageantry, this new reimagining, helmed by Guy Ritchie, is oddly muted, light on wonderment, and spiritless, especially in the Bollywood-style musical sequences. Ritchie can do action with his arm tied behind his back (see Sherlock Holmes), but staging song-and-dance numbers clearly isn't in his wheelhouse.
Naomi Scott, as alluring as she is as Jasmine, shares little chemistry with Mena Massoud’s dull title hero. As the wish-granting genie, Will Smith revisits his Fresh Prince persona to replicate Robin Williams’s freewheeling energy in the original version. But there’s only so much Smith can do: He’s going up against an iconic animated character voiced by a peerless comic genius. Is it possible for him to improve on perfection?
Elsewhere, there is a new rousing female-empowerment ballad ‘Speechless’, and Billy Magnusson (aka the token white dude in an ethnically diverse ensemble) in a newly-minted, kinda amusing role of Prince Anders, a dim-witted European suitor of Jasmine.
You don’t need a hypnotherapist to forget this new Aladdin: it will do that on its own after the house lights are up. Just stick with the original. (**1/2)