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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Aladdin Review and Disney’s Risky(?) Live-Action Remakes

by Ray Keating
May 26, 2019

DisneyBizJournal.com Movie Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
DisneyBizJournal.com Box Office Rating:  $$$$ out of $$$$

Remakes have a long history in Hollywood. But there are risks.

The advantage of the remake is that successful films usually are the ones that get remade (that might seem like a “duh” comment, but there have been dubious movies that got remade, like Ocean’s 11), so there’s proof that audiences, at least at some point in the past, were on board. However, if a remake does a real disservice to a beloved movie, filmgoers, not to mention critics, will be ruthless in their punishment.

The Movie

The new live-action Aladdin is a solid effort. It’s a largely enjoyable movie that, while not as good as the 1992 animated movie, still honors that film.

Disney is in the midst of live-action (or live-action and CGI) remakes of the movies that re-energized Disney animation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those films were The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). Those four films earned love from the critics and at the box office. Indeed, each now falls into the category of a classic. Choosing to remake such films can be seen as an opportunity or an unwarranted risk. 

Disney chose to see opportunity. So, the remade Beauty and the Beast was released in 2017, followed by AladdinThe Lion King coming this July, and The Little Mermaid is in the works.

The new Aladdin benefits first and foremost from wise casting choices. While no one can be Robin Williams as the Genie, Will Smith offers a fun ... well ... very Will Smith performance. It’s hard to think of someone else who could have pulled this off given the shadow of Williams.

The biggest plusses for the movie were Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine. They shine in their respective roles. Also, Nasim Pedrad is delightful as Dalia.

The singing and dancing work well, including the songs we love from the original, such as “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.” The only song that’s a bit too “on the nose” was the new “Speechless.”

Also, I had serious doubts that Guy Ritchie being the right choice to direct an Aladdin remake, but he pulled it off. The only clear weakness in the film is uneven CGI effects.

In the end, this new Aladdin makes for an enjoyable trip to the theater that clearly benefits from tapping into some Disney nostalgia.

The Box Office

As for the box office, the performance of the 1992 Aladdin was stupendous, with a production budget of $28 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, and a global box office take of $504 million. Wow, now that’s a rate of return!

The new Aladdin’s production budget has been reported at $183 million. As of today (May 26), BoxOfficeMojo.com is reporting that the global box office take – for a film that just opened on May 24 – at $207 million. Even with adding half or more of the production budget for marketing, this 2019 version of Aladdin is on its way to big profits.

By the way, such a success would make Disney two-for-two at the box office on its remakes of those late-80s, early-90s classics since Beauty and the Beast (2017) pulled in $1.26 billion on a production budget of $160 million. On these recent remakes, Disney’s bet on opportunity has paid off, so far.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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