Aladdin (2019) |Movie Review|

From a media conglomerate that keeps making remakes that no one asked for, comes a cash grab reimagining of a classic tale about a boy, his genie and love. Directed by Guy Ritchie, Aladdin stars Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Marwan Kenzari and is a live-action remake of the 1992 animated film of the same name.

A Tale of a Genie and Three Wishes

Aladdin

The most important character in this film is the titular character, because if Aladdin isn’t right then you gotta throw the whole film away. Luckily for Walt Disney Pictures and this remake, they did a tremendous job at casting their main character. Mena Massoud had a big magic carpet to fill and his take on Aladdin was one of the strongest performances in the film, second to his Genie (Will Smith).

IMDB/Aladdin
IMDB/Aladdin

Massoud’s singing is fine, the “A Whole New World” bit sounds better in the original movie but the visuals are great in this version.

Princess Jasmine

Scott’s portrayal of  Princess Jasmine is fine. Princess Jasmine and Aladdin had some chemistry at times but it felt like Guy Ritchie didn’t give them an adequate amount of direction because it felt like they were going through the motions. The Sultan (Navid Negahban) and Princess Jasmine have a realistic (as can be) father-daughter relationship.

Naomi Scott is a talented actress and singer and the role of Princess Jasmine allowed her to showcase some of her talent. She can sing and hold notes, but her big song moment comes when she performs “Speechless,” a perfect song for what her character’s storyline, but it feels terribly misplaced in the film.  It comes right off the heels of another song which makes it seem like it was just crowbarred into the film.

IMDB/Aladdin

Naomi Scott’s casting as Princess Jasmine did not come without criticism, with some accusing Disney of colorism. Agrabah is a fictional place but it is a fair argument that a film set in the Middle East had most of the darker skinned actors portraying extras/minor roles or evil characters. Disney wants to create more diverse films, but it does seem like they do not want to go out of their way to cast darker skinned actors if they don’t have to. Whenever the eventual Mulan live-action remake comes to theaters, maybe Disney will have learned from Aladdin.

Navid Negahban, Numan Acar, Nasim Pedrad, and Naomi Scott in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

One change from the original animated movie is this film introduces us to a loyal handmaiden to the princess, Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), who is Genie’s love interest in the film. Pedrad has a lot of charisma in the scenes that she is in and she has comedic chops. Despite the age difference her and Genie were a good match and had great chemistry with each other.

Genie

Going into this movie, the question that everyone was wondering was how Will Smith will live up to Robin Williams’ portrayal as the Genie. To set the stage, the year is 2019 and we have an iconic character from the 90s portrayed by an iconic actor from the 90s and it was far better than I expected. Will Smith practically plays Blue Will Smith and he brings credibility to the film.

Will Smith in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

For much of the film he acts as Aladdin’s wingman, but it works and nothing ever feels forced. Think Hitch but instead of Kevin James, there’s dance numbers and a young Middle Eastern man chasing after a princess. Will Smith’s singing does need work, in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen, we have autotune but I guess the sound crew thought Smith didn’t need it – Reader, they were wrong.  But where this – *squints* – 180 million dollar production misses the mark is the CGI when the Genie appears. Look at these pictures:

IMDB/Aladdin
IMDB/Aladdin
Will Smith in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin
Will Smith in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

There are times where Genie’s blue body doesn’t even match his head. For a 180 million dollar production, you would think someone at Disney would’ve done a better job. Disney has some of the best animators in the world so this disheveled looking Genie should’ve never happened. For all the hate that the Dumbo remake gets, at least they took time to make Dumbo look nice. Maybe Genie suffered from rushed reshoots that limited post-production, but if there is a prequel film then I hope they take their time to get it right.

IMDB/Aladdin

Jafar

The most disappointing character in this live-action remake is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). I know it’s 2019 and certain things from 1992 wouldn’t appeal to today’s audience, but if you’re going to have a different take on the character at least give it some sort of personality besides “generic evil bad guy #1.”

Marwan Kenzari in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

Kenzari has an expressive face but outside of that the movie doesn’t do much with Jafar and since he plays such a huge part in the film his scenes are – for a lack of better words – boring. I don’t think Kenzari deserves all the blame for Jafar’s mishaps because the character feels underwritten as a whole for a live-action film.

IMDB/Aladdin

Jafar’s talking and wisecracking scarlet macaw Iago doesn’t talk much in this film. He spends most of the movie just making one-off comments and this takes a layer away from Jafar’s character in the process. The film tries to give Jafar a backstory to make the audience understand why he’s such a great villain, but it isn’t slightly compelling.

Marwan Kenzari in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

The film ends with a way to set up a possible Return of the Jafar-esque sequel, but that’s something that should stay on the drawing board for now. It’s criminal that one of the most iconic Disney villains has had his personality stripped away and replaced with no sense of unique character traits. The protagonist is only as good as the antagonist that they have to overcome and Jafar sinks Aladdin’s magic carpet.

The MVP

For a film such as Aladdin, the template was created in 1992, so for any future remake all the cast and crew has to do is not mess it up. There isn’t much going on in this remake to set it apart from the previous version, but the design teams and their artistry give this film life. Game of Thrones production designer Gemma Jackson was tasked with production design while Michael Wilkinson handled the costume design.

Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

The costumes have a Bollywood type of feel with their bright colors and intricate garb that gives the background characters some personality. Just watching it on the big screen it’s hard not to be drawn in by the people of Agrabah. Just look at the image below:

Will Smith and Mena Massoud in Aladdin (2019)
IMDB/Aladdin

And to watch all of this in motion is the true meaning of visual art. When the Genie performs the “Prince Ali” number, Will Smith can’t sing that well but as you’re watching all the set pieces, extras and colorful costumes, they distract from Smith’s singing voice to create an enjoyable scene.

Final Thoughts

After watching the trailers for this film I went into this one with low expectations, surprisingly, it was better than I expected. The biggest complaint that I had with this remake is that when I walked out of the theater I couldn’t help but think that this movie didn’t have to be made. There was never a moment in the film that really felt fresh or better than the original animated version of Aladdin. Based on the trailers, Will Smith’s Genie looked questionable at best, but after watching the entire film he’s the best part of it. Never judge a blue CGI man by his cover, I guess? He brings a sense of culture (by acting like Will Smith) to the role of the Genie that some may not enjoy but for me it worked. He and Aladdin have great chemistry, but whenever they’re not on screen the movie suffers at times.

The production of the film is phenomenal, there was a lot of time put into the costumes and set pieces and I would not be shocked if there was an Oscar nomination to be had in the future. The sequencing of some of the musical numbers was frustrating, especially the song Jasmine sings in the third act because it’s completely out of place. Jafar is also disappointing. With that said, Aladdin is a serviceable remake of a timeless classic and I would not be opposed to a Maleficent-style prequel for Will Smith’s Genie. If the House of Mouse is going all in on these cash grabs, then at least with this one the titular character plays a major part in the film unlike their other remake.  A whole generation of kids will grow up watching this version of Aladdin which could’ve been better yet also much, much worse.

Fin.

RATING

[Fresh Horchata]

[Fuego]

[Bueno]

[así así]

[Basura]

[All Mames Wey]

Aladdin was released in theaters May 24, 2019.

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Dumbo (2019) |Movie Review|

“Let’s get ready for Duuuuummbbbo,” is an actual line said by the legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer and reader, I, was not ready for Dumbo. Directed by Tim Burton, Dumbo is a live-action adaptation of the 1941 animated classic and the first Disney remake to be released in 2019. The film stars Colin Farrell, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Eva Green, Danny Devito, and Michael Keaton.

The Elephant In The Room

First thing first, we’ve got to address the elephant in the room, and it’s not Dumbo,  it’s Disney for getting rid of the racist crows that were in the 1941 movie. For an adaptation made for a 21st century audience, there were other changes that were made, which included a more realistic approach and a film without anthropomorphic animals. The original cartoon had Dumbo befriend  an anthropomorphic mouse named Timothy Q. Mouse which parodied the stereotypical relationship of animosity between elephants and mice.

Less Animals and More People

With all that being said, this live-action adaptation of a movie about a flying elephant tries to be as realistic as possible and relies on the humans to carry the film. The problem with these characters  is that they are dead on arrival. The dialogue is just used to push the story forward and everything about these characters is forgettable.

Pictured from left to right: Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), Milly Farrier (Nico Parker), Joe Farrier (Finley Hobbins) and Dumbo (center).

When Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns to the Medici Bros. Circus after World War I, he is tasked with taking care of Jumbo Jr., nicknamed Dumbo, a newborn elephant with giant ears. Holt lost his right arm in WWI and his two children, Milly Farrier (Nico Parker) and Joe Farrier (Finley Hobbins), are apprehensive when reuniting with him for the first time. Their mother has passed away, their father has lost an arm, and they’re raising a deformed elephant which is all the elements for a touching story about a family coming together through adversity. The movie never does that.  Dumbo and Holt Farrier had a deformity and there was never a scene where the pair had a heartfelt moment. The closest we get to these characters bonding is Holt telling Dumbo to fly in the most truly uninspired way possible. This moment happens near the end of the film and after spending the whole film with these characters, there wasn’t a reason to care.

Eva Green in Dumbo (2019)
Dumbo is sitting in a net with Collette Merchant (Eva Green)

Acting wise, Colin Farrell does a fine job but the script is what buries his performance in the movie. I really wanted to care about these characters but the film never gave a reason to. The two child actors have a big role in the film and Tim Burton fails to get the most out of them. Nico Parker’s delivery was stiff throughout the film and Finley Hobbins wasn’t given much of anything to do but cheer for Dumbo. The lack of direction doesn’t stop at the kids, Eva Green who plays Collette Merchant, suffers the same fate. Merchant was just there to deliver the exposition and to eventually become Holt Farrier’s love interest by the end of the film. Her personality and motivations have barely developed throughout the film and she only ends up siding with Dumbo because her boss does not believe in a safe work environment.

Max Medici (Danny Devito) watches in astonishment as Dumbo performs his routine for the first time.

The only human character that captures the essence of the film is Max Medici played by Danny Devito. Max Medici is the owner of a small troop circus called Medici Bros. Circus, no explanation for what happened to the other Medici brothers, and he’s the owner of Dumbo and his mom. When Medici sees the large ears on Dumbo he is distraught because the baby elephant is deformed and a freak show. He makes an offhand comment about how he already has enough freaks because he runs the circus. Devito’s role is that eventually he grows to love Dumbo by the end of the film. In Devito’s scenes he delivers a sense of magic that is acquiescent to Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) discusses business with Max Medici (Danny Devito)

Danny Devito isn’t the only actor to reunite with Tim Burton in this film, Batman returns as Michael Keaton portrays the exploitive entrepreneur, V.A. Vandevere. Vandevere is the owner of Dreamland, an amusement park, and he buys Medici Bros. Circus just so he can exploit Dumbo for financial gain. He runs Dreamland like a nightmare and abuses his animals, employees and so when gets his comeuppance at the end of the film, it’s a satisfying ending. Vandevere’s cruelty knows no end and there is a scene that effectively shows this when he makes his trapeze artist Colette Merchant perform without a safety net.

Performance wise, I am not sure what Michael Keaton thought he was trying to accomplish. Throughout the film, Keaton lays the craziness on thick and talks with multiple accents throughout the film. In one scene he’s southern American, the next scene he’s British and then he’s Australian, and it was jarring, not sure what he was thinking but he came off as goofy. He tries to be quirky but instead he makes his character feel forced and awkward. The executives at Disney may have been looking for this type of wonky Johnny Depp type of portrayal, but this was definitely not Jack Sparrow and it ended up hindering the film to the point that it takes you out of the movie.

Jumbo Sized Ears For A Jumbo Sized Star

Nico Parker in Dumbo (2019)
Dumbo is enjoying a well-earned bath.

Enough about these humans, what about the the flying elephant, the film’s titular character? This film focuses too much on the humans and not enough on Dumbo. Dumbo takes a backseat to Michael Keaton being goofy and stiff child actors. The fact that this movie is nearly double the length of the 1941 cartoon yet there isn’t any meaningful development in his character  and it’s a shame. The scenes between Dumbo and his mom are the most emotional moments in the film. Dumbo NEEDS MORE Dumbo.

Dumbo wrapped up with his mom

The animation of Dumbo is stunning and his big blue eyes convey various expressions throughout the film. He doesn’t speak but he can understand everything that the humans tell him. The most realistic aspect of this film is when Dumbo is put into peculiar situations and you can actually see the fear on his face. If only he felt as important as his name suggest that he is on the film’s title card. The animation team did a phenomenal job at making him look like a star.

Elephants of a feather fly together

When the elephant with jumbo-sized ears finally realizes that he can fly without the use of a feather, it doesn’t feel special in the context of the film. The animation of Dumbo is superb and his reaction, especially his eyes, has this sense of  amazement. However, when the Farriers tell him that he can fly without it during a tense moment in the film,  their delivery falls flat. This creates a scene with an emotional elephant with a family of humans in a circus tent surrounded in an inferno in a dire situation but the humans do not seem to care that they may die. Like Milly Farrier’s delivery…. There. Was. No. Emotion.

Behind the Circus Tent

This is Dreamland

Outside of the titular character and his animation, the visual aspects of this film were all-around stunning. There were times where the green screen was obvious but those were few and far between.  The set pieces and the CGI for Dreamland were vibrant and full of life. Tim Burton uses a filter throughout the film that gives it a dusk feeling that remincises an era that’s fittingly long gone.

George Gjiggy Francis in Dumbo (2019)
Dreamland is The Most Magical Place on Earth

It’s early in 2019 but Dumbo has some of the best costume designs so far this year. The crew behind the scenes put in work from the makeup to the set pieces, everything has a  grandiose quality to it. The visuals are the soul in a film that felt like it was made without a heart. It’s easy to see that there was a lot of thought and imagination when creating this magical world for Dumbo and hopefully, in time, this film will get its recognition for that.

screenshot_20190331-010905_youtube.jpg
Dreamland

There are homages to the 1941 classic, including a creative recreation of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” scene. In 2019, Disney is not going to allow an elephant to get drunk on the big screen and the film did a solid job at getting around this while maintaining the psychadelic effect.

Screenshot_20190331-010659_YouTube.jpg
There’s a great homage to the Pink Elephants on Parade scene.

Final Thoughts

Seventy-eight years in the making and we finally received the highly anticipated and long-awaited live-action remake of Dumbo and the flying elephant deserved better than this cash grab of a film. The original Dumbo was the second Disney film to turn a profit and was culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant enough to be registered in the United States National Film Registry in 2017 by the Library of Congress. Dumbo is supposed to tell the story of how one overcomes self-doubt and overcomes the adversity and ridicule from others. This version has the ingredients to tell that story but doesn’t even try to. Each human character has a flaw or deformity that matches Dumbo’s physical deformity with his jumbo sized ears, yet Tim Burton’s film never capitalizes off of that to create any type of emotional attachment with the characters. Disney tried to reinvent their classic by creating new characters and making a movie about a flying elephant realistic, that’s a jumbo task to execute.

What makes things worse is that this movie should’ve been at least 30 minutes shorter. The script doesn’t have much depth to it so it wears itself thin amongst its runtime. The animation, costume design and production are extraordinary and beautiful to watch  but since the film doesn’t pack a punch it makes the end result forgettable. Hopefully, the next two Disney remakes to be released in 2019 will live up to their original classics. If not, 2019 is going to be longer than Dumbo’s trunk. Check this one out when it comes to a VOD or a rental service.

Fin.

RATING

[Fresh Horchata]

[Fuego]

[Bueno]

[así así]

[Basura]

[All Mames Wey]

Dumbo was released in theaters March 29, 2019.