Movie Review Tuesday: Aladdin (2019)
The latest Disney live-action adaptation has finally hit theaters with Aladdin managing to grab an impressive $85+ million opening weekend. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie, and while based on the 1992 animated feature, the newest version was written by Ritchie and John August. The film follows the character of Aladdin as he meets Princess Jasmine and encounters a genie that allows him three wishes. The Genie is portrayed by Will Smith with Mena Massoud starring as Aladdin and Naomi Scott starring as Princess Jasmine. The cast also includes performances from Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, and Numan Acar.
The film begins on a boat with Will Smith and two children. Smith begins to tell the kids a story about Aladdin and the lamp, which they have never heard. The story begins with Aladdin and his monkey, Abu, successfully stealing items to buy some food, which Aladdin promptly gives away to hungry children. Aladdin rescues a woman in the market after she gives bread to hungry children without paying, and unbeknownst to him, the woman is the princess, Jasmine. Jasmine disguises herself as her handmaiden, Dahlia, but while Aladdin makes a good impression, she must quickly return to the palace to meet another visiting prince. Meanwhile, the Royal Vizier, Jafar, longs to finally be in charge of Agrabah, but he seeks out magic to attain his goal. Whenever Aladdin sneaks into the palace to return a bracelet to Jasmine, he is seized by Jafar’s men, and through this encounter, he meets a genie that changes everything.
So, I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by this latest adaptation from Disney. The marketing campaign did not leave me with high hopes, but I found the original story contained more depth than the 1992 original. Similar to the 2015 adaptation of Cinderella, this film also manages some subtle improvements to the story. It gives a backstory to Jasmine’s mother and why Jasmine seems imprisoned in the palace. It provides Jasmine with new ambitions and dreams besides just finding someone better than the average prince. It provides an interesting backstory for Jafar as a former thief, and it adds some enjoyable new characters like Dahlia and Hakim.
Part of what makes Aladdin a successful remake, though, are the additions to the characters and the actors portraying them. Mena Massoud gives a great performance as Aladdin, bringing a lot of heart to the role. Jasmine is much more of a powerhouse in this version, and Naomi Scott brings that side of her to life seamlessly. The Genie was always going to be a tough role to fill thanks to Robin Williams’ iconic voice performance, but Will Smith is quite good in the role. He manages to keep the quirky, high-energy version of the Genie alive while still giving the character his own twist by utilizing his background in rap and hip-hop. Some of my favorite moments are when these three share the screen together, and the camaraderie between Massoud and Smith makes all of their scenes standout, especially when Prince Ali first meets Jasmine and the Sultan. Of course, the smaller characters in this remake cannot be overlooked, and I thought that Nasim Pedrad as Dahlia was an excellent addition to the story.
At the end of the day, Aladdin ends up being an enjoyable film, bringing the vibrant and colorful world of Agrabah to life. The story beats and CGI are not always as smooth as one would hope, and the character of Jafar did not always land. However, as I mentioned before, there is a lot to appreciate here. In addition to the work on the characters, the costuming for this film is beautifully executed, providing an updated look to Jasmine that modernizes her while still calling back to the original. Also, the music is given a fresh take thanks to Will Smith, and I did enjoy the fact that Jasmine has her own anthem in this adaptation. I will still stand by the statement that Cinderella is the best live-action adaptation so far, seamlessly blending the old with the new, but Aladdin manages to employ that same mindset for a remake that begs to be seen on the big screen.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.