By now we’ve all seen the “Extended first look” leaked out for Disney’s latest rehashed classic churned-and-burned into a CGI monstrosity, Aladdin. And far be it from me to bury the lead:
It looked almost palatable until Will Smith’s Genie farted out of the lamp.
The movie has a lot going for it on paper. Director Guy Ritchie — notable to nerds first for his Tarantino-by-way-of-the-UK Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch, and later for his turn on Downey-led Sherlock Holmes movies that weren’t half bad. The principle cast, Smith aside, is far less white than one might have feared in the day and age of actually casting things to be true to the source. Heck, even the teeny-tiny-tid-bits of scenery we’ve seen has been lavishly lit and detailed to-the-nines. And while I personally had not seen the The Jungle Book or Beauty and the Beast remakes… my wife and oldest kid have, and they said they were good. Maybe not “great” how my generation once recalled the original animated features mind you, but I’d wholly accept “good” for Aladdin, in part merely to match it’s CGI-siblings in the Hall of Unjustifiable Cash Grabs.
But then… hoo boy. The Genie.
Cooler heads in my social media feeds gently cooed to give it a chance, and denote we’ve not really even seen how things will look. The only taste of Big Willie was a mere 5 seconds of awkward half-introduction. And certainly we can’t extrapolate the quality of the final film from such a hot-take.
But, yes, we can.
You see, this isn’t a case of odd costuming. When Heath Ledger’s Joker sucked his scars in the trailers for The Dark Knight plenty of fan-boys sharpened their axes. But the messy make-up, and bespoke purple and green wardrobe of the character didn’t distract away from the very meticulous method and presentation Ledger gave the clown prince of crime. From the very first appearance, The Dark Knight’s nemesis was a new take on a character who had been portrayed numerous ways. Aladdin as presented here, is a remake. Not a sequel. Not a reboot. A copy/paste of the original source material, rezzed up for the millennial mind, and sent off into the multiplexes with a song on its heart, and Will Smith reinterpreting Robin Williams.
Do we all have such short attention spans that we don’t recall Ryan Reynolds portraying Hal Jordan? Let me remind you one and all how we felt when first seeing the Green Lantern suit CGI’ed skin-tight to America’s favorite Canadian. We collectively vurped. Remember then how Geoff Johns whispered from on high how DC and Warner Bros. were pumping up the effects budget to ensure the movie was the emerald spectacle it was meant to be. Now recall as Hal defeated a black fart cloud while individually faked fibers of pectoral muscles pulsated on screen to our dismay. Now pan over to Will Smith’s face digitally plopped on a blue-tinted Terry Crewes body. Think a little more money is going to solve that?
You could use all three wishes up attempting to bypass the uncanny valley the Genie is occupying, and you’d wind up wasting them in the process.
And the piss-poor rotoscoping and tracking are merely the tip of the saber that stabs at me from these first few seconds. Amidst the vaguely British-Ethnic accents of the cast paired with the sweeping middle-Eastern orchestral swells… comes a horrendous Whooo. Followed quickly by Will Smith’s normal cadence delivering a line including the bon mot “…none-a-dat”. Will Smith is not a bad actor. In fact, every time I rewatch the scene where Ben Vereen breaks his heart in Fresh Prince I get misty-eyed. And while not as seamless as Chadwick Boseman’s African accent in Black Panther, Smith did stretch his vocal inflections in Concussion as well as Ali. Enough, perhaps to at least accept that he has range. But here, Disney has gone ahead and dialed in Will Smith Prime. From merely a single line of dialogue, how hard is it to foresee a jive-talking sapphire-hued smoke-spirit for the entire run-time of this rehashed waste of time?
Awful CGI is awful CGI. Pairing the earnest performances of pseudo-teens with a playful Will Smith doing his middlest to earn a fat paycheck doth not a classic make. Or remake. I need not await further trailers to dispel the truths in front of me. Green Lantern burnt out my wait and see center of my brain. This movie, fully at the misty-curl of Smith’s Genie plume, is the lump of coal that shall not be a diamond in the rough. At best, Smith may be able to rub the sides of a new prize… his first solo Razzie.