It’s a whole new world for fans of Disney’s Aladdin as the classic film gets an exciting live action adaptation for 2019.
This film review contains spoilers so if you haven’t see the live action Disney’s Aladdin, please do not continue reading
I first saw the original Aladdin when it premiered on November 25, 1992. It quickly became my favorite Disney cartoon, replacing Cinderella. I spent the rest of the 1990’s listening to the soundtrack on my CD player with “One Jump Ahead,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World” being my three favorite songs.
Aladdin was the highest grossing film in 1992 and won two Academy Awards. Full House’s Scott Weinger voiced Aladdin with Brad Kane providing the singing vocals. Linda Larkin was Jasmine and Lea Salonga did the singing. And of course the late Robin Williams was unforgettable as The Genie.
With the success and popularity of the original Aladdin, how could lightening possibly strike twice?
I’m not the biggest fan of remakes. It seems many films and television shows are getting the remake or reboot treatment. What happened to original ideas Hollywood?
Nonetheless when I heard Disney’s Aladdin was getting a live action treatment and that Will Smith was slated to play The Genie, I admit I was excited. Robin Williams was a memorable genie and made the role his own with his “punch and pizzazz.” But if Aladdin wanted a recipe for success by giving the remake a modern flavor, they cast the perfect genie in Smith. The Genie is a larger than life character and Will Smith is a larger than life performer.
Smith brought his comedic experience from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to The Genie. The Genie’s interactions with Aladdin were brilliant. It was like watching a mentor encouraging someone he cared about to shed deception in favor of honesty. I loved the scene at the party when The Genie pushed Aladdin towards Jasmine. And the Bollywood dance sequence was awesome. That boy Aladdin really cut some cool moves thanks to his genie pal.
In the 2019 version, Aladdin wasn’t the only one to find romance. The Genie fell in love with Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), Princess Jasmine’s hand maiden. And he got his happily ever after. For 1,000 years of servitude it was great to see The Genie become human and have a family.
Mena Massoud plays Agrabah street rat Aladdin with charming perfection. Aladdin must use his wits to outsmart the guards but shows that one doesn’t need riches or a magic lamp to win the heart of a princess. If the cartoon version of Aladdin had to come to life, Mena Massoud was an excellent choice to play him. Aladdin was both confident and insecure at the same time. He was a skilled thief who could pick your pocket quicker than you can say “Where did my bracelet go?” but was doubtful that a princess could love a commoner. “Be yourself” was the best advice Aladdin could have been given. Prince Ali may have “Seventy-five golden camels” but the real gold was in Aladdin’s heart.
Naomi Scott’s Jasmine is a princess for the new times. She modernized the character without losing any of Princess Jasmine’s trademark spunk. I did like how the 2019 version of Jasmine aspired to be the sultan. She refused to marry someone to rule when she was more than capable of doing it herself. Forget Raja her pet tiger, the louder roar came from Jasmine’s determination. “I am woman, hear me roar.”
Now let’s talk about the songs. I was happy the live action version kept my three favorites (“One Jump Ahead,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World.”). The upgraded lyrics were appropriate for the twenty-first century. Take for example “Prince Ali” :
In the original, Robin Williams’ Genie sings “He’s got slaves, he’s got servants and flunkies. Proud to work for him.”
This always bothered me. Regardless of how nice Prince Ali were to them, they were his slaves and wouldn’t be proud to do his bidding. But for the Arabian region of Agrabah as depicted in Aladdin, having slaves was probably the norm and sign of great wealth.
In the 2019 version, the word slaves was appropriately removed as it would have felt odd having an African American happily singing a song about slaves being proud to work for their master. Will Smith instead sings “He’s got 10,000 servants and flunkies.”
Also in the “Prince Ali” song, I like how Smith’s genie sings “Heard your princess was hot, where is she?” instead of Williams’ “Heard your princess was a sight lovely to see.”
There’s some other great lyric changes to be heard in Friend Like Me too.
Will Smith used his appeal as a talented rapper to add fun to the genie’s songs. It’s hard to say if I like the new song versions better. But I can say they added a flair to the beloved originals and can be enjoyed in their own right. The song and dance numbers were spectacular.
The cinematic scope of the production made Aladdin 2019 epic. Disney’s Aladdin has already grossed $921.7 million, tripling its $183 million budget. Like Aladdin’s magic carpet, this film is soaring and free wheeling through an endless diamond sky of movie success.
No making three wishes with a genie was needed. With the gifted people involved in Disney’s Aladdin, movie goers got a dream come true. This is one remake that honored its predecessor but stood on its own. It was a thrilling movie ride that took the goer to a whole new world of cinematic excellence.
Aladdin Trailer Courtesy of Will Smith
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