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Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 9/10/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/6/2019
The modern entertainment industry as we know it as been around for a little over a century, with movies, music, and television sharing the major corners of the business. And during this time, there have been few behemoths like The Walt Disney Company (or whatever it’s called today). Dominating movies, most notably with its animated films, television in various forms, be it stand-alone shows on the “Big 3” decades ago or its own networks in modern day, and music to a lesser extent, Disney has always found a way to survive in an industry which is ever changing. With their acquisition of Marvel and 20th Century Fox, Disney continues to be the biggest kid on the block. And it seems that Disney is always looking for new revenue streams. Way back in 1996, the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians was released and this laid the groundwork for what would become a trend of taking classic animated films and bringing them to real life. This string of releases has accelerated in recent years with three of these films hitting theaters in 2019 alone, including the one which we’ll explore today, Aladdin.
Aladdin takes place in the ancient Middle-Eastern land of Agrabah, where we meet Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a young man who fends for himself on the mean-streets, always accompanied by his monkey, Abu. One day, Aladdin helps a young woman who has been accused of stealing from the market. At first, he thinks that she’s a servant from the palace, but he comes to learn that she’s actually Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), a lonely woman who left the safety of the palace to seek adventure and to escape from the endless string of suitors who are paraded in front of her. At this same time, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the Sultan’s (Navid Negahban) advisor, has been attempting to extract a magic lamp from a forbidden cave, but has had no luck. Noting the thievery skills in Aladdin, he recruits the boy to help. Aladdin and Abu enter the cave and they are able to retrieve the lamp, which is Aladdin is surprised to learn contains a powerful Genie (Will Smith). Aladdin sees the Genie’s magic as a way to woo Jasmine, but little does he know that Jafar will stop at nothing to make the Genie his slave.
I’ve never been a big fan of remakes/reboots/reimaginings and I’m not afraid to say that I’m definitely not enamored with the live action takes of classic Disney animated films. If someone wants to make a new version of the story, that’s one thing, but to simply remake the film using live actors is something else entirely. And Aladdin is a perfect example of what a mixed-bag these movies can be.
As with the animated version, this Aladdin is a musical, but the having the characters suddenly burst into song feels less organic here. All of the familiar songs are here – “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead”, “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali”, and, of course “A Whole New World”. “Prince Ali”, in particular, works quite well, with Director Guy Ritchie, who’s known for his tough-guy films, shows a steady hand at shooting the elaborate musical numbers. But, we are also reminded of how well these songs were presented in the 1992 film, most notably the personality which Robin Williams brought to the music. Will Smith may be an accomplished rapper, but he’s not a very good singer and his songs simply fall flat. Similarly, Massoud lacks energy at times and his “One Jump Ahead”, which should be a show-stopper, has not personality. Only Scott brings emotion to the music. Smith’s singing aside, he does bring enthusiasm to his take on the Genie and he’s obviously trying to make the character his own, despite the fact that he’s asked to deliver some of the same dialogue as Williams. The weakest link here may be Jafar, as he never comes across as particularly sinister and is very forgettable.
Along with the similarities, we do get some changes. Jasmine now gets a solo song entitled “Speechless”, which is OK. A political angle has been introduced, as Jafar is forever urging the Sultan to invade neighboring countries. Nasim Pedrad is introduced as Jasmine’s handmaiden, and, in a truly unexpected turn, the love interest of the Genie. (Was that necessary?) Some of the ways in which the story proceeds are somewhat different, but for the most part, the plot is the same as the original movie. All of this, again, delivers a muddled outcome. There are some fun moments here, most notably the Bollywood-like musical numbers. We also get a few laughs, most of which come from Smith. But, the film never does enough new, impressive things to separate itself from the original and it’s certainly never better than that movie. This Aladdin could have been much worse, but, as it stands, it’s more of a curiosity piece than a must-see movie.
Aladdin could have used some of the sassy Abu which we know and love on 4K UHD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 45 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look incredible and the image is never overly dark or bright. Simply go to the “Prince Ali” scene to see how the colors leap off of the screen. The depth is very impressive and the picture has an overall crispness which looks fantastic. This is one of the best looking 4Ks that I’ve seen thus far. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The musical numbers deliver notable surround sound and subwoofer effects, as do the action scenes. These moments bring us nicely layered audio, in which we can pick out individual sounds. The stereo effects show off sounds coming from off-screen.
The extra features for Aladdin can be found on the Blu-ray Disc included here. “Aladdin’s Video Journal: A New Fantastic Point of View” (11 minutes) offers an on-set video diary which was shot by Mena Massoud. This includes comments from the cast and a behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of some scenes. “Guy Ritchie: A Cinematic Genie” (5 minutes) offers comments from the director, comments from the actors and crew, as well as footage showing Ritchie at work. “A Friend Like Genie” (5 minutes) offers a look at the iconic character, all the while paying homage to Robin Williams. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes. There are no new characters or subplots here, but we do get a nice moment showing Genie’s past. There is also a “Deleted Song” called “Desert Moon” (2 minutes), which is introduced by Alan Menken. Finally, we have a 2-minute “Blooper Reel”.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long