I just want to emphasize Jasmine’s facial expression here. Remember when during A Whole New World it just looked like Jasmine was having the time of her life and it was this incredible journey: wind in your hair through this soft blue sky and despite it being this epic adventure across the world and in the vast sky it still felt intimate and romantic. Well replace that with a murky consistent dark blue, make the carpet feel like it’s 20 feet away from the camera and the only expression you’re getting is “Oh dang am I killing this high note” then that’s what you get in Diet Aladdin (2019). I asked for regular Aladdin and while this looks like Aladdin and it is similar enough to Aladdin, but it does taste a little funny.
I know everyone and their mother has already reviewed this movie, so I guess I’d like to add a little something different to the table. Part of the problem with this film is that it tries to replicate an energetic animated cartoon with interesting technical choices. Just like you when I saw that Prince Ali clip blow up on Twitter. I wasn’t as deeply appalled as others, but I noticed something was off, it felt stilted. Possibly the culprit is the way it’s framed which production photos on IMDB can confirm that they used a Panavision 37-85 T2.8 an anamorphic lens. I’m not the smartest when it comes to this but basically anamorphic lens are rather than circular, more ellipse shaped and are meant to capture wider field of views (think CinemaScope films) with more of a Bokeh effect on them and an overall shallower depth of field.
What does this mean exactly? A lot of center framed shots, characters rubbing shoulders, and a lot of medium shots without a lot of camera movement. Is the cinematography bad… no. Wider vantages are great for busy action and bountiful scenery and in those regards Aladdin does wonders. Even with a great amount of budget and talent behind the scenes your production choices have compromises if you want to have your cake and eat it to all you can really do is animate it than you’ll have free reign over the visual presentation…
Live-Action Remake Hate
I think the hate the Disney-live action remakes get are kind of hypocritical in a way. Don’t sit there like “how dare Disney besmirch the legacy of these timeless classics with some greedy corporate plot” and pretend like you didn’t bump: Kronk’s New Groove, Mulan II, Lion King 1 ½, Leroy & Stich and all those very questionable in quality direct to DVD sequels. Diet Aladdin is not even close to as good as the original but is it better than say The Return of Jafar? People like hyping up the narrative that Disney has lost the magic but histories for the heavy hitters, the decade is defined by the all-stars. 2010s people are going to remember the hits: Tangled, Frozen, Moana, Big Hero 6, Inside Out, Coco, Zootopia all in the span of 10 years sound like a good deal. The 90’s is the Disney Renaissance right you know all the classics but who cares that there was a few stinkers in between. Please tell me about: The Straight Story, My Favorite Martian, Meet the Deedles or A Kid in King Arthur’s Court … nobody cares. Disney has just evolved from cheap DVD cash-ins to Standard Box Office hits and will probably continue to evolve towards mediocre streaming shows and then probably just reanimating the films when the feel the old ones get obsolete.
Why Diet Aladdin?
While Diet Aladdin is serviceable, it sort of also feels like it greatly lacks a lot of the charm of the original. Will Smith is a serviceable genie who gets down the zany and amiable attributes of the character to not nearly the same degree as Robin Williams did. I think while a lot of people keep bringing up that the genie’s larger than life appeal that was brought to life by the animated vocal presence of Robin William I feel people are forgetting Good Will Hunting, and Dead Poets Society Robin. The genie while a fun spark did have this gentle kindness and wisdom to him, Williams always knew how to be sincere and genuine in any role. It’s why setting him free is so meaningful; he’s a friend and mentor to Aladdin and the fact that Aladdin equally treasures their friendship and has grown to learn what he’s been trying to help him realize this whole time is why it’s so satisfying to see them embrace at the end. Will Smith saying the same lines with conviction of Google Translate’s hear back function doesn’t do it for me.
I think Mena Massoud is phenomenal, he looks and feels the part. He does a good job though again sometimes he’s saying the lines and I don’t buy the conviction behind them. Jafar looks passable for the Broadway performance but then it feels awkward when he doesn’t sing. Naomi Scott is actually really good as Jasmine, performance wise I think she nails it: spot on with the original but also doesn’t feel like an impression but an actual stand-alone performance.
I don’t think I liked anything new they added so I guess this is when I might spoil some things.
So Jafar is a blatant sexist now, he was always obviously a bad guy with poor morals and a creepy lust for Jasmine but the additional dialogue had me waiting for some “shouldn’t you go back to kitchen line” and it really wouldn’t have felt out of place. I think my favorite change was instead of “heard your princess was a sight, lovely to see” they changed it to something more progressive and less objectifying that of course being “you’re princess is hot, where is she?”. Also instead of visual gags, or pop culture references or clever character moments being what drives the comedy it’s cringe humor. Not that I specifically found the humor poor no I mean the style where dialogue and scenarios are intentionally trying to be as uncomfortable to sit through as possible. Aladdin fumbles his words and makes a complete jackass out of himself in a scene that feels like it goes on forever. Dalia the chambermaid is really awkward and falls in love with the genie who also can’t talk to girls how oh so silly. Speaking of silly I didn’t know when it would be appropriate to bring up the big showstopper number so …. now we’re talking about it now.
I’m not going to lie; I think I literally looked like this and assumed this exact pose in the middle of the theater…
I actually don’t mind the song, it’s got a nice message to it and it feels appropriate to Jasmine as a character who I always thought maybe should have gotten a solo in the original Aladdin but it can’t be just me who thought this was literally the worst time to bring everything to a halt and had almost no idea what was going on. Why did time stop, why was everyone disappearing, why did the camera do a bunch of unnecessary spins? I thought I lost my mind, if anyone can explain to me a breakdown of why everything in the number had a purpose beyond Disney asked for an empowering female moments and Guy Ritchie wanted to play with his toys then I’d love to hear it but for now that’s all I got.
Diet Aladdin is not a poorly made movie or an insulting film by any means but it certainly fails to stand up to or alone from the original. It’s delightful to see some aspects recreated with some energetic parkour and extravagant set pieces but it can’t be helped to see it more as a paycheck than a labor of passion. At least I’m glad that my favorite Disney movie doesn’t have any people in it so good luck making a live-action version of The Lion-King. Haha could you imagine… well good luck to whatever Disney property is the next victim.
*Goes to check Disney’s line-up*