I had to prepare myself to watch this new adaptation of Aladdin. That preparation included changing my preconceived ideas about these “live-action adaptations”. For all of us that are reluctant to watch our childhood masterpieces brought to life again (and in some cases butchered), I’m trying to change my way of thinking. This brought me back to one of my favorite playwrights, William Shakespeare. How many different film adaptations of some of Shakespeare’s greatest works have been made? Moreover, how many different adaptations on stage? I’m going to start approaching these remakes (and start calling them interpretations or adaptations) with that frame of mind. Hopefully, it will insight a bit more objectivity.
That being said “Aladdin” was and is one of my favorite Disney films. I saw it in the theatre and watched it on repeat over and over again as a young girl. My 8-year-old self went to the theatre to see the play versions of it before a cartoon was even made. But even before that, I had discovered the tale on Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre in 1986. It featured Valerie Bertinelli, Robert Caradine, James Earl Jones as the “Genie” and Leonard Nimoy in “Jafar’s” role and was directed by Tim Burton no less. So I sat preparing myself for a film I didn’t want to see re-imagined, mostly because of the loss of Robin Williams. Even so, it still featured Will Smith and the story remained the same along with what remains my favorite Disney soundtrack.
If you are familiar with the 1992 version this 2019 Aladdin is pretty much a duplicate with some creative integrity. Aladdin a poor thief of Agrabah who by chance meets the cities Princess Jasmine, who is typically kept under lock and key by the Sultan out of fear something will happen to his beloved daughter. Aladdin wants to win her heart, but a mere street rat has no chance with a Princess and he finds a magical lamp with a Genie and three wishes, which ultimately is a game-changer. Meanwhile, the sorcerer of the palace “Jafar” who’s been manipulating the Sultan with his magic is doing all that he can to steal the power of Agrabah, and Aladdin stands in his way.
Playing the same roles set in the past but live-action. “Aladdin” played by Mena Moussaud and “Jasmine” played by Naomi Scott was wonderful. They were both physically beautiful and reminded me of their cartoon counterparts and both had lovely singing voices. “Jafar” played by Menwar Kenzari was far from sinister. Even though he murders someone immediately in the first scene and depleted the element of fear. Save Scar from “The Lion King” Jafar is probably one of the more terrifying villains in the Disney world. Will Smith played the magnanimous “Genie” and he wasn’t the blight I think most of us imagined. It was a lot of fun. Some of the songs didn’t work wonderfully for him either, but “Prince Ali” was a highlight of the film.
Visuals and Special Effects
We are benefiting from well-done effects and an illustriously imagined Agrabah. It is breathtaking. The landscapes were incredible. Even the “Genie” magic was pretty outstanding, but him being blue was unnecessary. Equally distracting was Jasmine’s pet Tiger “Rajah”. After getting CGI creatures pretty on point in the live-action “The Jungle Book” adaptation I expected a lot here. Overall, it was a ton of fun getting whisked away in the Cave of Wonders and on the Magic Carpet.
Music and Costumes
There are a few original songs added, but most are the wonderful songs from the animated film in 1992 and were certainly the high point for me. The Bollywood style of dancing incited a ton of energy and palpable enthusiasm. Mixing that with the vibrant colors and elaborate costume design an Agrabah party became an event I wanted an invite to.
Make A Wish
Aladdin 2019 was not the terror show I anticipated. It was far from a masterpiece or game-changing in the genre, but I enjoyed it more than “Beauty and the Beast”. Directed by Guy Ritchie who is responsible for my beloved “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” came what was a sincere, sweet and most fun trip back to my childhood. There was surprising care placed here and affection for the original. I will happily watch this again.
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars