review by Drusilla Blakey
Disney has been on a role as of late taking some of their popular animated features and bringing them into the real world with live action versions including The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and more recently with Dumbo and The Lion King coming soon. Now they are giving the story of Aladdin the live action treatment in hopes to keep their magical streak alive. The film stars Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen and Numan Acar with director Guy Ritchie at the helm. Could this new take on the classic do the popular animated film justice or will it be a wish that should have never been granted?
Aladdin follows kindhearted street urchin Aladdin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier who vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true. I have to start off by saying that Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie. I do accept that it is basically like all the other Disney movies of the time with the princess looking the same just with brown skin. The father is a copy of Belle’s dad from Beauty and the Beast and we have an evil sorcerer a la’ Ursula from Little Mermaid. I know, I know, it’s all just a big repeat!
What I adore about this movie is the setting and the music. I love that old world, Middle Eastern setting and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some amazing trips to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Morocco. When you walk through those small little alleyways of their markets you're transported back in time. That magical and mystical feeling is what captured my attention as a 15 year old kid watching the animated feature for the first time. Also the music was so different and new to me that I instantly fell in love with it. Perhaps it was Robin Williams' delivery, but as the characters sang and laid out the story for us, I was totally there!
Now we have the live action version and we all know there was already so much talk about the film, about Will Smith, about how it could potentially
be messing up a classic, blah blah blah. The only way for me to really know was to see it for myself. So as the movie started I said to my friend who was with me “I hope they didn’t mess this up.” Well guess what?! This is a really fun and well done adaptation. The immediate opening of the film is a bit different but we quickly get to the opening song of 'Arabian Nights'. Things proceed as normal, Aladdin sings his song, and does his thing in the market, and we meet at our main characters.
We get into the whole Jafar being evil part of the story and then... something very strange happens. For some strange reason, we have a new song by Jasmine, "Speechless". I personally found this song to be a bit out of place and a bit pushy instead of empowering. It was very much a woman empowerment moment, with Jasmine singing 'you will not silence my voice, I will not be speechless'. However, if you take a look back at the original animated film, you will see that Jasmine was always very strong! She wasn’t content living the life of a princess forced to marry a prince. She fought against stereotypes, she didn't follow the rules, she had a voice and she was strong. So I wasn’t sure why they felt the need to add this; but it was very off-putting to me. And then I had to hear it again later in the reprise - yuck. Maybe others will be happy to have some "Girl Power" injected into the story, but I thought it was too much.
Regarding Will Smith's performance as the Genie, I found it to be very enchanting and delightful. Honestly, I don't know why there was so much hubbub. In reality, my initial thought when he was announced in this role was never 'why Will Smith?'; it was more 'why not one of the Genies from the Broadway show that’s been doing it for years?' Smith puts his own spin on things, and it’s not bad at all. I guess I never realize that he could really sing as we're so used to seeing him just rap, but I found his performance to be really good. Of course, it’s not Robin Williams and that's okay. You just have to remember that while you watch it. I know there has been a lot of criticism in the media and a big deal was made about his version of "Friend Like Me", but I think he did a good job and with his own spin on it, and it made for a well-rounded character and felt it all come together just fine.
If you’re a fan of the Aladdin like I am, you will want to see this movie! I thought it was fun, it was creative, and I liked seeing the big song and dance numbers come to life. I thought the sets were amazing, the colors and textures are vibrant, and the costumes are beautiful. You should use one of your three wishes to go see this movie.
In addition to the film this release includes tons of magical bonus features including bloopers, music videos, deleted song, and numerous featurettes taking you behind the wishes that brought this film to life. Jump on your magic carpet and grab your copy of Aladdin available now on Digital and Movies Anywhere and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.