Movie review: Aladdin is saved by song and spectacle
Forget about the Genie.
Robin Williams might have been the star of the 1992 animated original as the voice of the blue comedic character, but this live-action version belongs to Princess Jasmine, wonderfully performed by British newcomer Naomi Scott.
The plot may still revolve around how the titular street rat (Mena Massoud) frees a genie (Will Smith) from a magical lamp and his attempts to win Jasmine's heart, but Aladdin is more like a sidekick to both Jasmine and Genie.
Given a timely update, this Disney princess is constantly persuading her ageing father, the Sultan (Navid Negahban), that she's born to do more, such as taking over his kingdom. All she wants is to be heard and respected. Scott is spot-on in delivering Jasmine's angst, indignation and helplessness.
The 26-year-old actress looks suitably regal too.
This time, Jasmine also gets her own rousing anthem titled Speechless, which will most likely become this year's Let It Go.
Massoud may look the part of the diamond in the rough and he boasts some nifty dance moves, but the Canadian newbie is amateurish in many ways. His chemistry with Scott is also non-existent.
Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari may have earned the title of "hot Jafar", but he contributes to the pool of bad acting.
After a string of misfires, it's good to see Smith back at the top of the box office - Aladdin has made over US$235 million (S$322 million) worldwide.
For those who loved Williams' Genie, it will come as no surprise that Smith's take pales in comparison.
He is more appealing when he's not in Genie form, and the side plot of his blossoming romance with Jasmine's maid is sweet.
Director Guy Ritchie's objective seems to be spectacle over substance.
Forget about characterisation - everything must be loud, brash and over-the-top.
The musical number Prince Ali is a prime example. And if you find that the song-and-dance sequence feels more Bollywood than Arabian Nights, blame it on Smith. He was reportedly so enamoured of Bollywood that he wanted elements to be featured in the movie.
Fortunately, Alan Menken's winning songs are still evergreen after 27 years. Don't be surprised if you start humming again to Friend Like Me and A Whole New World.
Movie reviews: The Secret Life Of Pets 2, The Silence
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 (PG)
The sequel to the 2016 animated family comedy is a valiant attempt to recreate the humour and heart-warming antics in the first movie but falls short with its cliches and predictable plot.
Jack Russell terrier Max (Patton Oswalt) now has to cope with the new presence of a baby in his life, after his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) gets married. He finds himself adorably attached to the boy and develops a fierce desire to protect him.
The Secret Life Of Pets 2 is a pared-down version of the original, with a simple message at its heart: Even pets have to find their own courage.
It is perfect for children but adults may have to stifle a yawn or two.
- LYDIA GAN
THE SILENCE (PG13)
The premise of this horror thriller seems to be a blatant rip-off of last year's far superior A Quiet Place. It follows a family trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world with monsters who hunt by sound. Unlike A Quiet Place, there is a deafening lack of tension here.
The Silence focuses on a father-daughter pair (Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka), with the girl's deafness being uniquely suited to this new world order. What should be the emotional core falls flat, with her story only vaguely alluded to and a lack of any meaningful progression in their relationship.
The Silence also suffers from questionable script decisions. For some reason, it decides to introduce a religious post-apocalyptic cult mid-way, taking away precious time in an already brief 90-minute flick that should have been spent developing likeable characters.
- JOHN TAN