Coming to theaters this Friday from director Guy Ritchie and Walt Disney Pictures is the story of a princess and a thief named “Aladdin.”
Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a young man who finds his way around the city of Agrabah stealing to survive along with his friend, the monkey Abu. He also sees what the people of the city endure and tries help when he can. One day he meets Jasmine (Naomi Scott) who also wants to help those in need.
Telling Aladdin that she is the hand maiden to the Princess, they outrun the guards and spend a little time together. While looking out over the city, Jasmine realizes that a new suitor has landed and makes her leave from Aladdin to get back to the palace.
Once there she is introduced to Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen) by her father the Sultan (Navid Negahban) with Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the Sultan’s Vizier watching on. Jasmine isn’t impressed and along with her real hand maiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) and tiger Raja, she saunters away.
That’s when Aladdin makes his way to the palace to return a bracelet and is apprehended by Jafar. Sitting on the desert floor, Jafar explains that he doesn’t stand a chance with the princess but, if he does one thing for him, Aladdin could be paid handsomely. All he has to do is enter the Cave of Wonders and return a lamp — and just a lamp.
Things go awry and Aladdin along with Abu get caught in the cave. It is what comes out of the lamp that could save them — a Genie (Will Smith). Given three wishes, Aladdin tries to choose a life with Jasmine by becoming a Prince. Of course the one person who isn’t happy about this is Jafar. He has plans that don’t include the Sultan or Aladdin.
Jasmine finds herself thrilled with Prince Ali but plays a little hard to get. The Genie has an eye for someone as well so both are enjoying life. That is until it is all about to come crashing down as Jafar has his own little spy in a parrot named Yago.
In Agrabah, anything and everything is possible if you believe!
I’m sure families are going to be thrilled to see “Aladdin” mainly because it is always a joy to be able to see a film that is oriented for kids. Making an afternoon of colorful characters along with song and dance is always a good afternoon. That’s what Disney has been known for and attempts with this film to follow in its history.
Massoud and Scott as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine play their roles and although difficult to break the mold of the 1992 animated version, this is cartoon come to life. The same can be said of Smith attempting to fill the role that Robin Williams made so iconic.
In the case of these three characters I applaud their attempt to embrace their animated counterparts. That being said, there seems to be a sense of detachment in their portrayals that I couldn’t get past. Massoud and Scott work well together but there are hits and misses along the way. Scott’s rendition of a woman’s empowerment tune just seemed more like a cry for help.
Smith as the Genie is blue, he sings and he is charming. I like Smith, don’t get me wrong, I just have a hard time embracing this version of him or the Genie. He also had a few missteps with his songs except obviously for the raps. Pedrad as Dalia get to throw out a few clever lines and be thrilled that a man has taken interest in her.
Kenzari as Jafar doesn’t exactly give the same frights and sense of doom as his animated counterpart but he did make me laugh. I’m not sure that was the point of his performance but he does give it a different perspective.
Other cast include Jordan A. Nash as Omar, Taliyah Blair as Lian, Aubrey Lin as Omi, Amir Boutrous as Jamal, and Numan Acar as Hakim.
“Aladdin” is colorful, filled with music, dance and filled with special effects and as I said, that’s the Disney way. The problem is that there didn’t feel as if there was a need to make it a live action film. I would have been thrilled to see the original cleaned up a little and put back on the big screen for a special engagement.
Yes, it’s fairly clear that I am not a fan of taking films that have delighted fans and families for years and feel the need to make them “live”. I know the song and dance of “but it’s for a new generation” — welp, I am still here and breathing and I’d appreciate it if Hollywood would put a moratorium on remaking, retelling, reimagining or rethinking any more films for oh, say seventy-five years.
Instead, put the money where it could be better spent — on originality and new stories for the next generation to enjoy. That’s my soapbox and I’m happy standing on it.
In the meantime, enjoy “Aladdin” with your family with a big tub of popcorn and sing along because you’ll know the words, that hasn’t changed.
In the end — the magic is live!