Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great additions for Jasmine; overall fun
Cons: A bit slow
The Bottom Line:
Is visually awesome
Fun, adds little new
Make Way for Prince Ali – Again
It has taken me a long time, but I am slowly warming up to these live action remakes Disney is doing of their animation classics. Maybe my expectations have been lowered, or maybe they are starting to find a way to capture more of the magic. Either way, the more previews I saw for Aladdin, the more excited I got for this new version. I was so excited, in fact, that I went to see it during a preview screening Thursday night.
If you are already familiar with the tale, you pretty much know what to expect here. When we first meet Aladdin (Mena Massoud), he is a street urchin stealing to make ends meet. While in the market one day, he runs into a beautiful woman clearly from the palace, never realizing his new crush is really Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Unfortunately, he’s also captured the interest of Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who needs a “diamond in the rough” to enter the cave of wonders to retrieve a magic lamp – a lamp with a Genie (Will Smith) in it.
This movie sticks very close to the classic animated movie. Oh, it makes some changes, but most of them are superficial (I’ll discuss the biggest change in a few minutes). They may present something in a new way, but the end result is the same. So, if you like the original movie, you’ll certainly enjoy the story here.
That includes keeping the original songs. Honestly, since I love the music from this film, I was glad to see them include the songs here. “One Jump Ahead” gets a different arrangement, and it feels a bit off to me. But I suspect after a couple of listens I will better appreciate it. The rest, while clearly new arrangements of the original songs, also feel like old familiar friends.
Visually, the movie is stunning. They’ve recreated an old Arab city, and the sets and costumes take you to a whole new world. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.) There is quite a bit of computer effects in the movie, and they look very realistic. Oh, I caught one or two moments that didn’t quite work, but I bought 99% of the film, must better than the previews for the movie looked, actually.
The biggest flaw in the film for me is the pacing. It feels slow. Now, as much as I love the original, I will freely admit it is a bit slow until Robin William’s Genie makes his first appearance. This movie does pick up after Will Smith shows up as the Genie as well, but it still feels a bit slow. It doesn’t help that there are some scenes where both Aladdin and Genie make complete fools of themselves. They are played for laughs, but those kinds of scenes usually make me cringe more than laugh. Even with those pacing issues, I enjoyed the movie overall. I think there will be enough to keep kid’s interest, although the climax might be too intense for those who are easily frightened. It’s different from the original, which was also intense, but this one is intense in its own way.
While the original Jasmin was a strong woman, part of this movie is Jasmin’s transition into a stronger woman. She is never one who wants to just take on the role as wife to some prince, but she really grows as the movie unfolds. That is reflected in the new song written for her character, which I absolutely loved. Jasmin has never had a good solo song – there was none in the original movie, and the songs added for the stage versions I’ve seen (at California Adventure and on Broadway) weren’t that good. They nailed it here, and I absolutely loved it and the scene where she really takes a stand.
The movie also adds a second romance which was a ton of fun. I loved how they played it.
No, this Aladdin is not the original. Yet it is still fun and entertaining. If you enjoy these characters and this story, you’ll be glad you watched the remake.