“You ain’t never had a friend like me”
When Disney first announced they were adapting the beloved Disney classic Aladdin, you heard a collective sigh across the world. Blogs and websites were groaning after the announcement. During a time where Hollywood has been poorly adapting multicultural properties by shoehorning white actors in roles that called for diversity. Bottom-line Aladdin still carries a fondness in people’s hearts. Fans of the Robin Williams classic had plenty of reasons to be worried more so after the botched unveiling of Will Smith as his successor in an early trailer that quite frankly presented him as a creepy, half-naked blue weirdo. However, one thing we seem to forget is that Disney values their properties more than fans do. Disney had a plan; the litmus test was Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and Beast not only delighted fans but it made serious bank. It grossed 1.2 billion USD at the box office that let Disney know that if they take their time and adapt their beloved movies with the care they will be successful.
We all know the story of Aladdin the beloved tale about the kind-hearted, thieving street urchin. The one who is in love with Jasmine, the princess of Agrabah. The unlikely hero who was blackmailed by Jafar, the Grand Vizier to bring him a magical lamp, which wields unbeknownst to Aladdin the powerful Genie. After being betrayed by Jafar it is now, it is up to Aladdin and Genie to stop Jafar and his evil intentions and marry the love of his life. Disney had to nail its key players Aladdin, Jasmin and most importantly the Genie. Disney mishandled Will Smith’s reveal as the genie, in the trailer, but Will Smith steals the movie. He turns back the clock as the Genie. Showing us why he is the A-lister, he is. His chemistry with Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is amazing. That coupled with Will Smith’s natural comedic and rhythmic ability make this adaptation a winner. His Genie is less cartoony manic Williams’ but more human and down to earth genuine life of the party. Think more Hitch with a dash of pop culture and urban undertone. The Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud who brings the beloved Aladdin to life with his Charm, Honest Eyes and handsomeness plays Aladdin. His casting was spot on, he brings a natural draw to him, and He also shows to have wonderful chemistry with Jasmin, played by Naomi Scott of Power Rangers fame. Naomi Scott is given more to do as Princess Jasmine. Naomi Scott is given a few extras scenes to drive home that this Jasmine will not stay quiet and let her people be lead but someone else.
Aladdin has amazing visuals and of course great musical numbers. The best song and dance sequence is the Prince Ali grand street procession, with hordes of dancers, wild animals, and Aladdin riding a giant flower-covered camel float, and an athletic, Bollywood-style ballroom dance; both are full of color and energy. Closely followed by the Whole New World, which literally had the crowd singing in unison to the beloved number.
Overall, Guy Ritchie’s adaption wisely took away the bad and added a more human touch to the beloved story. Ritchie’s signature visual trickery generally serves the movie’s heightened Disney reality well. He avoided the mistakes he committed in other films like King Arthur and let the material shine.
I give Aladdin 4/5 Genies.
MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 127 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Disney release and presentation of a Rideback production. Producers: Dan Lin, Jonathan Eirich. Executive producers: Marc Platt, Kevin De La Noy.
CREW: Director: Guy Ritchie. Screenplay: John August, Ritchie. Camera (color): Alan Stewart. Editor: James Herbert. Music: Alan Menken. Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, with new lyrics by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul.
WITH: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen.