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What the critics are saying about Aladdin

It's a whole new world... sort of.

Reviews are coming in for Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin, and critics are split right down the middle. While the flick is largely a faithful retelling of the 1992 animated classic in the vein of 2017's live-action Beauty and the Beast, many observers are finding the treatment to be a bit less essential when it comes to the tale of the roguish thief-turned prince.

Of course, considering the beloved nature of the source material, the new film is not without its charms, many of which came down to its casting. While there was much praise showered upon the performances of Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine, we know what you're really curious about: the reception given to Will Smith's Genie.

The short answer: come on, he's Will Smith, everybody loves him. Said Brian Truitt of USA Today, "While there's a certain charm missing from the revamp, Smith goes way over the top to make up for it. For those who've ever wondered what the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would be like as a middle-aged guy plopped into a bevy of belly dancers and hoofing swordsmen, here you go." Truitt also praised the movie's "progressive streak," noting the updated lyrics to opening musical number "Arabian Nights" and the flick's largely Middle Eastern cast, and proclaimed the flick "quite a cool and nostalgic magic-carpet ride."

Germain Lussier of io9 said that Aladdin "made [him] feel like a kid again" in an effusively positive review. He noted that the few slight changes from the original — such as the movie's only new song, "Speechless" — were mostly in the interest of expanding the characterization of Jasmine, a welcome development. "Here, Jasmine has a significantly more complex role, which is bolstered by the song," he wrote. "She's still being courted by Princes from around the world with a father eager for her to choose one and get married, but she isn't defined by that. She sneaks out of the palace regularly and asks her father to make her Sultan, instead of having to be married to some random Prince."

Scott Mendelson of Forbes called the film's script "a mess," but nevertheless turned in a positive review thanks to the strength of the acting on display, reserving his highest praise for Massoud's performance. "Mena Massoud is dynamite in the title role. The marketing didn't do him justice... He has sparkling chemistry with everyone, including Jafar as they chat outside the Cave of Wonders," he wrote. "Aladdin entertains and charms almost through sheer force of will. The leads are so likable (and, yes, the inclusive casting matters, especially for a find like Massoud), the movie is so big and colorful and the songs are so memorable, that it almost doesn't matter that the story feels like someone dropped the original screenplay in a blender and then randomly taped it back together."

As you may have figured out, that screenplay and Guy Ritchie's uncharacteristically flat direction were the main things that irked the film's detractors, not to mention CGI that left some viewers hurtling through the Uncanny Valley. Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com was particularly miffed by the latter, panning the movie's use of "long tracking shots stitched together with CGI, some 'dangerous' chase scenes augmented by CGI, some musical numbers with ostriches and elephants and monkeys and camels, etc, all CGI, and Smith's genie whooshing around the frame, his broad and CGI-augmented torso and shoulders swiveling and bobbing and weaving while trailing a curiously cheap-looking trail of sparkles." Ouch.

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune lamented the flick's "directorial miscasting," gently suggesting that the man behind Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the "steampunk Sherlock Holmes pictures" may not have been the best choice to helm the remake. While he was quick to admit that younger viewers may find a lot to like — particularly if they're fans of Will Smith — he pegged the classic story as having been "re-framed as a disposable action movie, interrupted by songs."

Some critics were even less kind. William Bibbiani of The Wrap, while praising Massoud ("Give this man a franchise. Give him a franchise now," he wrote), simply took the film apart as an unnecessary rehashing with none of the charm of the original. "This isn't a movie. It's a chintzy revival, specifically designed to appeal to audiences who think 'that looks familiar' qualifies as entertainment," he wrote. "If you don't think about it very hard (although you probably should), the remake of Aladdin might entertain you. But you'd be a heck of a lot more entertained by watching the original film again... Or by doing some light gardening. Or by doing a crossword puzzle."

The takeaway here is that there were some oddly sharp divisions in the critical opinions of Aladdin; at the moment, despite dozens of reviews having been published, Rotten Tomatoes still insists that there is no critics' consensus yet, which actually makes sense in this case. However, we feel safe in reporting that if you're not completely adverse to Will Smith, enjoy seeing Disney's beloved canon updated with a slightly more progressive spin, and would like a sneak preview of some major new acting talent, then Aladdin may be for you. In addition to Massoud, Scott, and Smith, the film stars Marwan Kenzari (Murder on the Orient Express) as Jafar; Navid Negahban (Legion) as the Sultan; Nasim Pedrad (New Girl) as Jasmine's mother Dalia; and Billy Magnusson (Velvet Buzzsaw) as Prince Anders. The flick opens in wide release this Friday.