Given the fairly vocal backlash and disappointment with the latest live-action Disney remake, I went into Aladdin with a fair amount of trepidation. Coming out the other side, however, I think most of that can be safely ignored. I understand that the original movie is a particular favourite for a lot of people, but I also don't really see what could be done that differently with the remake.
Sure, the initial setup has some odd directorial decisions. The weird framerate during Aladdin and Jasmine's first duet – as they're chased through the streets – was terrible, and for the first quarter-to-third of the film I felt like the acting was a little stilted, particularly from the core characters. Jafar never really leaves that pantomime style behind, but by the second act I thought both Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud had made the roles their own. I'm also going to remain irritated that the film-makers opted to use a capuchin for Abu, rather than a more logical langur or macaque (also, the monkey's CGI/facial expressions were pretty terrible throughout), but then I guess we were stuck with a macaw so why not have two South American species?
But one of the largest areas of vocal dissent online – Will Smith's casting and performance as the Genie – ended up as a saving grace, in my books. Yes, there are some moments where his head goes a bit uncanny valley (unfortunately, particularly in the cave sequence where we first meet the character, so it sticks with you; compare to the later throne scene, where it seems perfectly rendered throughout, makes me wonder if reshoots aren't to blame), but I actually think he does a really great Genie. For some, the fact this isn't Robin Williams will be reason enough to dislike the film, but even if the legend were still alive, he couldn't have played this version of the character. The modern Genie is still wacky, but they're also a lot more grounded, with much more humanity, and I personally really enjoyed Smith in the role.
Elsewhere, I felt the songs were all very neatly modernised and homaged, most of all Prince Ali's entrance, which was great fun. The carpet was very well animated, as was the Cave of Wonders. And the movie managed to plug several plot holes that I recall from the original film, whilst generally tightening up the story in a few ways, that I think were genuine improvements, plus I really enjoyed Nasim Pedrad's handmaiden role. They also tried to flesh out Jasmine's character a bit, which largely worked though I'm not sure about her new solo. It's a good song, and boy does Scott belt it out, but the way it was worked into the film made it feel like we'd just paused to watch a tie-in music video, rather than an organic musical number. It was just a bit odd.
So, sure, there are things I would change about the movie. It's far from perfect, and I'd say at times even a little amateur, which you don't expect with this much budget and star power. But elsewhere, it oozes excellence. The set design and costumes are stunning; for the majority of the film, the CGI is really well done; the story is just as fun as the original; some elements that haven't aged too well have been deftly improved; the core message is much stronger; and overall I had a really fun time.