Movie Review: Aladdin

Aladdin — Walt Disney Company

Is Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin a whole new world? Not quite; it’s not a shot-for-shot remake of the original, but it’s close. Aladdin may not offer too much that’s new, but Disney magic does bring the classic to a whole new generation of fans. The story and songs should keep any fan of Aladdin or newcomer interested for its 128 minute run time.

This is a full spoiler review for Aladdin.

I suppose this is also a spoiler review for the original 1992 release of Aladin as well.

A Familiar World

The story of Aladdin does not change from the original. Boy meets girl, then we have our main characters motivation for the rest of the plot: get the girl. The girl, in this case, is a princess, which of course is a problem, since our main character Aladdin is a “street rat”.

The plot does not deviate from the original at all. Aladdin finds Genie and *spoiler alert* he gets the girl, after a series of lies and songs. I was disappointed how closely it stuck to the original. I was hoping it would be more of a retelling than a remake, but either way, it was great to see a childhood favorite cartoon brought to life.

The Characters

Following the first trailers, I lost all excitement in this movie. I felt they got all the characters wrong and I couldn’t get behind it. I tried my best to go into this movie with an open mind and what happened surprised me. Most of the characters grew on me very quickly

Aladdin — played by Mena Massoud — was by far my favorite character. He brought the same charisma that the original cartoon brought. Whenever he was on screen the movie was at its best. It didn’t matter if he was singing, dancing, or just flashing his goofy smile, the movie shined when he was there.

Jasmine was a character that, by the end of the movie, I came around on. Naomi Scott was great in the role; my problems were not with how she played the role, but rather how they made her look. When I looked at her, I really didn’t see Jasmine. Her performance was so believable that by the end, I did see Jasmine in her.

Jasmine had one of the bigger changes from cartoon to live action. They made her have more of a voice, which is not just another way of saying they gave her more singing to do. While they did add songs for her another welcomed change to her was just how strong of a character she now is.

The Genie was one of my least liked characters. Will Smith did one thing I was very happy about: he did not try to be Robin Williams. With that said, he also didn’t do anything great with the character. It seemed like he basically just tried to play himself. If you’re a fan of Will Smith, you will most likely enjoy the Genie, but it would have been nice to see Smith really try to make the part something special. His delivery on his jokes, and even the way he sings some of the most famous songs, you can’t help but hear “The Fresh Prince” in his voice, which for me was distracting.

Jafar was the weakest character in the film; Marwan Kenzari was not believable as Jafar at all. Some of this was his doing, but the rest was the script. Jafar wasn’t really given too much on screen to show what his motives really are. He wants power and will do anything to get it, but that’s all you get from him. Kenzari, for the most part, came off as just your average guy. He was really lacking the evil, menacing vibe of the original Jafar. At the end, when Jafar goes full evil with the power of his wishes, that’s when we finally see what Kenzari could have been doing with this character for the whole movie.

Mena Massoud (Aladdin) and Marwan Kenzari (Jafar) in Aladdin (2019)

The Songs

The songs in the film are mostly incredible. It opens up with Smith’s rendition of “Arabian Nights” which was nicely done and gets you ready for the movie. “One Jump Ahead” is a mix of singing and action, which translates pretty well from cartoon to live action.

When we first meet the genie we are treated to “Friend Like Me”. In the cartoon, this was my favorite song but in this remake, it was my least favorite.

The visuals here are fantastic but the song just doesn’t do it for me. The entire song is changed to fit Smith’s Genie. The way he is singing in this song, I just keep expecting the next words to be “In West Philadelphia……” They really leaned on Smith’s rap career for this song and I think it’s a shame, since we know Smith can do more than rap.

The next song was my favorite: “Prince Ali”. This is where we see everything Smith can do. It’s a great rendition of the song and a great performance. Giant groups of people singing and dancing in the street presenting Aladdin as a prince. It was well choreographed and even added some humor to the classic scene.

The last two songs to talk about let Naomi Scott shine. Her solo song “Speechless” shows us that Jasmine will not be told what to do. It was a way to modernize the character and eliminate the damsel in distress aspect, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. It’s a nice balance. Then “A Whole New World” is done perfectly. Massoud and Scott take this song, make it theirs, and they own it. The visuals riding around on the carpet are nothing short of spectacular. Disney magic is real and this scene proves it.

“Things aren’t always what they seem”

Aladdin (1992) — Walt Disney

I was expecting this movie to have some laughs but not as many as we were treated too. The banter between Smith and Massoud is comedy gold, which really shines when Aladdin meets the Sultan and Jasmine as Prince Ali for the first time. Aladdin is making a fool of himself and stumbling over his words with constant commentary from Genie. The scene ends with Genie telling Aladdin “In 10,000 years I have never been so embarrassed.” Every line leading up to that quote had me laughing and this was a scene begging to be rewatched.

I wish to set you free

The conclusion of this movie plays out the same as the original, which is to be expected. This time, Jafar never actually wishes to become a genie, but still becomes one. He is tricked by Aladdin just like in the original, but his wish is just to be the most powerful being, after which Genie tells us “there is a lot of gray area in that wish,” and then makes him a genie and saves the day.

“Genie Magic”

This movie is worth your time for the singing and dancing alone. Like I stated earlier, most of the songs are great, but even when the songs are not at their best, the visuals are so great that you forget the song is not perfect. In a time of remakes, this is a remake that I would recommend. Fans of the original, and newcomers, will have plenty of areas in this film to find joy.

Final Score  6/10

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