Our Thoughts On Disney’s Aladdin!

Almost thirty years ago, Disney’s animation department cranked out some of the most beautiful and memorable animated features that became embedded in the minds of a generation. Such films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Aladdin. After the success of the 2017 blockbuster live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, it only makes sense to revisit and revitalize those stories by bringing them into the live action realm. What is interesting about these live action adaptations is that while the story is not changed, there are additions to help flesh it out for the characters. Disney’s Aladdin is the most recent example of this.

In viewing films like this adaptation of Aladdin there is a kind of comfort to be taken. We know that Aladdin is a street rat with a heart of gold. We know that he looks at the palace as a sign of hope that one day his life won’t be so bad. His motivations to get the lamp, use the lamp and become a prince are clear and pure. In the animated classic he has moments of selfishness, but never do we question if his intentions would ever anything less than good.

In this interpretation we learn that the evil Jafar was once a street rat and had the same core goal of getting off the street. The idea that both of these characters came from nothing and their shared desire to escape their poverty lead each of them down very different paths is a nice addition which allows the audience to see that when encountered with the potential of limitless power, it’s the choices that we make which define us.

Another type of addition to the story is the creation of a new song sung by Jasmine, who for those that don’t recall never had a solo song in the original animated feature. The 1990’s was the birth of the term “Girl Power” and no group of characters in pop culture at the time best exemplified this strong yet feminine role than the Disney Princesses; Jasmine being part of that group. She hated the idea of being married off and defied the system any and every chance she got. Finally, in this live action film adaptation we get to hear her sing of her woes and proclaim that she refuses to be silent. Jasmine gets another nice twist in the story but that I will leave to be seen as the surprise is wholly satisfying.

The overall look and execution of the film is exactly what it should be. Sets that are bright and full of color as befitting the look of a world created by Disney and in which musical numbers can happen. And speaking of musical numbers, of which there are plenty, when “Prince Ali” comes to Agrabah it becomes the biggest and most insane number of the entire film. In an animated film you can get crazy and creative and that can be fun and eye catching, but when something of this scope is pulled off with real people it just becomes a feat unto itself. I hate playing favorites, but the “Prince Ali” number might be my favorite part of the movie.

With the exception of Will Smith as The Genie, most of the cast doesn’t have too many popular credits under their belts. Princess Jasmine is played by Naomi Scott who played the Pink Ranger in 2017’s Power Rangers movie. Jafar is played by Marwan Kenzari who has starred in the 2017 films Murder on the Orient Express (which was directed by the great Kenneth Brannaugh), What Happened to Monday (the Netflix flick), and The Mummy (the one with Tom Cruise). For me the standout live action performance was by Mena Massoud who played Aladdin and whose biggest credit to date is the Amazon show Jack Ryan that just began last year. Massoud was able to display a believable level of athleticism (which is required for the parkour chase through the streets of Agrabah), has a voice perfect for Aladdin’s songs, and whose facial expressions were just big enough to convey the awkward comedy in situations without being too cartoony. As for The Genie; it is evident that Smith knew he could never and would never want to do an impression of what Robin Williams brought to the role. Instead he made it very much his own flavor while still keeping true to the character. This is the kind of role that, because of all the big jokes and fantasy elements, can only be pulled off with a movie star on Will Smith’s level (of which there are few) of swagger and fun.

It was not until seeing the actual film that I became convinced that Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and King Arthur Legend of the Sword) made sense for a film like this. While none of his previous work are musicals, they all involve a level of choreography and spectacle akin to that style, and when watching this, you can definitely see this his style with the action scenes being sped up and slowed down to emphasize the stunts. It ends up being a lot of fun with humor that can be enjoyed by the whole family; everything we have grown to expect and love about Disney.

Much like the animated 90’s classic, Disney’s Aladdin is a family adventure that is never risqué but remains exciting, fun, and just a joy to behold.

ALADDIN is in theatres everywhere now! Run out and see it!

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