Aladdin – A lively and colorful magical ride
War of the Movies: 8.5/10
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Released on May 24, 2019
Running Time: 128 minutes
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad
Disney brings to life its 1992 animated classic, and if I really need to write a summary plot for this film, then you’ve been living in the fictional country of Ababwa (or the Cave of Wonders!) for the past 10,000 years!
This live-action version is a beautiful production that stays mostly faithful to the animated film with minor, but bold, changes that brings out a more realistic twist. Chaining action scenes, catchy songs, slight drama and jokes, you will be taken on a magical ride down the memory lane of your childhood.
When news of a live-action movie of Aladdin come out, people were apprehensive of two things. First, Guy Ritchie as a director, second, the choices of the cast because let’s be honest, the first previews and pictures didn’t give us much clues to what to expect, there seemed to be missing a certain magical vibe, and Will Smith looked weird in blue. Someone in Disney marketing department must have done their job wrong, because this new live-action version of Aladdin gets you hook quickly with the memorable start of “Arabian Nights”. The sets and decors are beautiful, the costumes more than colorful, the action scenes well enough entertaining, it is genuinely funny, and the Genie’s CGI ended up being a solid accomplishment.
What people were expecting to be the weakest part of the film is in fact the very reason it was so well brought to life: the cast. The chemistry between the actors is undeniable and becomes one of the strongest parts of the film. Doing a too close Robin William’s Genie impression would have ended up being Will Smith’s doom but allowing him to play around the character and the musical arrangements of “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” in his own way made him stand out. He gave us the Genie we were hoping to see on screen: energetic, charismatic and right down funny.
Because it is his first big role, it was quite risky to choose Egyptian-Canadian Mena Massoud for the role of the likable-thief Aladdin, but he proved people doubting him wrong and gave us a solid performance. Although singing might not be his stronger suit compare to the others in the film, his charisma, chemistry with his other castmates and incredible resemblance with the animated character makes up for it. The “Jam” scene where Aladdin and the Genie meet the royal family for the first time was said to be an improv, and it shows us Massoud potential for future roles because it was one of the funniest scenes in the film.
Naomi Scott is mesmerizing on screen, with her pretty spot on Princess Jasmine characterization but also with her powerful vocal performances. The fact that they gave Jasmine a more prominent role with a bigger backbone than in the animated film gave Scott an amazing opportunity to shine more and to embrace the character her own way.
When you think of Jafar, you think you’re going to see some creepy old dude appearing on screen. That was clearly not the case in the live-action film, but Marwan Kenzari acting was good and villain enough to make you forget that he is the one who looks less like his animated character.
Taking such a turn to cast all multicultural actors was, in my belief, the right road to take. Can you imagine a white male in the lead role of Aladdin, a story that takes place in an Arab kingdom? I think the actor would have been more under the fire than Emma Stone was for pretending to be a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese in the film Aloha!
Biggest deception? Iago isn’t quite as important and present, or even funny, as in the animated film, and that is a shame. The character doesn’t feel much like a villain sidekick and could nearly have been taken out of the script. I also find regrettable that the song “Prince Ali (Reprise)” wasn’t in the movie, but I figured it must have been because Marwan Kenzari couldn’t sing (If there is another reason, I would love to hear it!).
The musical arrangements are a little different from what we are used to hear, it has more of a Bollywood with a hint of Hip Hop sound depending on the song. It can get some times to get use to it, especially if you listen to the soundtrack without seeing the film first, but in the end it brings its own kind of magic and works well with the scenes.
“Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are the musical numbers that stands out the most, with colorful decors, costumes and energetic dance moves, but “A Whole New World” keep the magic and delivers a well-done romantic ballad.
Two setbacks concerning the music, with the first one being “One Jump Ahead”. The new musical arrangements and the scene is quite entertaining, but the song may feel a little bit rush, throwing us too quickly in the film with minor prior settings. The second comes in the form of the new song “Speechless”. Princess Jasmine gets her own spotlight with this new song, and although it brings a powerful message and was beautifully sang by Naomi Scott, the second part of the song could have been more well included inside the script to make it feel less like an interruption of the storyline.
For the most hardcore fans, you will notice that sometimes a couple of words were changed in the songs, nothing too major, but it was clearly not a necessity and doesn’t bring anything more to the film.
Without changing too much to the 1992 animated version, the new live-action film even took some time to explain some things left unsaid (or even mistakes) from the original story. We learn a bit more about Jafar’s past, the Genie has a little more flexibility with the way he can grant a wish with his wonderfully well put “grey area” and they even included a part concerning the Genie that was supposed to be in the animated film but ended up as a deleted scene.
This film brings back so many memories, that it is not surprising to hear people in the theater say excitingly “oh it’s going to be the song!” right after hearing the famous line from Aladdin “Do you trust me?” while he is standing on the magic carpet. And right after the movie credit roll out, I lost count of how many people I heard talk about how they really want to see it again; there is no greater sign than that to what a wonderful time most people got out of seeing Aladdin.
Aladdin’s new live-action film is not without its flaws, but it delivers the magic the crowd expect to see and feel, with a colorful adaptation of the story and an astonishing attention to details of the sets and costumes. Go see it in theaters, you won’t regret it.
Should you see it?
I can’t find any reasons not to see Aladdin, except if you have never liked Disney movies and find them to be a waste of time. Otherwise, you will have a wonderful time watching this film full of life, and for those who are sceptical, keep an open mind and you will find that all of the changes made were to integrated a more realistic side to the story and that it wasn’t a bad thing at all.