[Mini Reviews] Aladdin (2019) and The Lion King (2019)

A Whole New World … well Disney has certainly given us all that with their live action remakes of their cartoon films. With so many in the works, it seems like they are focused on this trend, which started with Maleficent (2014), Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016). They certainly do range in quality, with some being forgettable and others being excellent, where does this years Aladdin (2019) sit? It sits on the higher end, as this is a highly enjoyable film that takes aspects of the original cartoon film and the stage musical and gives us something a little different. While there is nothing wrong with remaking a film, it’s when they make it different from the original and add in new aspects that make it far more interesting, which is what we get here.

The story is basically the same, poor boy Aladdin (Mena Massoud) gains some attention from the Sultan’s adviser Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who tricks him into doing his bidding, entering the Cave Of Wonders, because Aladdin it seems is the diamond in the rough that the cave wants. Of course Aladdin gets through the cave and finds the magical lamp, and due to some events he ends up with the lamp and discovers a genie inside. While he is given three wishes, his one wish is to be a Prince and worthy of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and forget his life of living on the streets. Lot’s of musical numbers and bright colours follow. Now that does sound much like the plot of the original film, Aladdin (2019) actually explores Princess Jasmine a lot more and features her quite a bit. She even gets to sing her own fantastic song ‘Speechless’ and she truly is a very strong character. There was a lot of controversy when Will Smith was cast in the role of the Genie, however he doesn’t simply copy what Robin Williams did, he makes the character his own and it is one of Smith’s best performances in recent years.

Overall the film is a lot of fun, the songs are the same but delivered in a memorable and fun way, its a very vibrant film that offers a lot to feast your eyes on. It is hard to believe this is a Guy Ritchie directed film, it is different from everything else he has done, and this just might be the type of film he needs to make more of. The show stealer here is Naomi Scott, she makes for a perfect and reinvented Jasmine, a memorable performance that shines throughout. Mena Massoud is a likeable Aladdin, and shares a lot of chemistry with his co-stars that adds a lot to the film. Navid Negahban as the Sultan is very enjoyable even with limited screen time and Nasim Pedrad as Dalia offers some extra perk to the film. Perhaps the weakest performance belongs with Marwan Kenzari, who does fine as Jafar, he just isn’t as memorable as he should have been. This is just a great fun time, and Disney needs to do more films like this that offer us something a little different.


The Lion King (2019) is actually the third Disney live action remake to come out this year along with Aladdin (2019) and Dumbo (2019), are we getting too many of these films every year? Should Disney give us a little more time between remakes? Yes and no, it is always a good time to watch a Disney film at the cinema, with so many films coming out however it gets difficult to see them all. With a title like The Lion King, it automatically makes it a must see, the original is one of Disney’s move beloved films, even if it is basically a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. So how does this new version fare? It does feel weird calling it live action, when it is entirely CGI with actors lending their voices to the characters. Jon Favreau directs his second of the Disney remakes here, after the success of The Jungle Book (2016), and he was the right choice to retell this story and use CGI animals. The film itself looks spectacular, it is almost hard to believe this was all digital, it does look highly realistic and showcases how far technology has come. However it does have some problems.

The weakness of the film is that it does keep far too close to the original, this was a good chance to offer something a lot different in terms of story and character, but it doesn’t give us something we haven’t seen before. On the character side however, Nala and Scar are portrayed differently, Nala gets more development and Scar feels very different. This is absolutely a plus, both Shahadi Wright Joseph and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter do a wonderful job showcasing Nala. Chiwetel Ejiofor makes for a memorable Scar and doesn’t follow the beats left by Jeremy Irons, he feels more like a sad character here. The hyena’s are much more cunning and scary here, another good change. The other characters basically feel and remain the same, Simba doesn’t change much at all and credit to JD McCrary as the younger version, as he does out shine Donald Glover later in the film. John Oliver, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen do fine their roles as Zazu, Timon and Pumba, what works though is the updated humour and they deliver that quite well. James Earl Jones reprising his role of Mufasa was lovely, can’t fault his voice work at all.

At the end of the day this new version is enjoyable, it hits some strong notes with key scenes and feels a little bland with others. Seeing these characters look realistic doesn’t take away anything, they felt real and natural. The songs almost did feel out of place here, they are well known songs and it’s too easy to sing along with them, they just didn’t quite match the film. There was a lot of missed opportunities with this film, which is a shame because it’s a great looking film with a solid cast. While it is quite watchable and a fun and emotional ride, more originality added would have made this a far more memorable experience.


Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea


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