Saturday, May 25, 2019

"Aladdin" Movie Review

 The New Live Action "Aladdin"  movie takes us to a whole new world - that is actually a bit familiar.  

My rating: 9 out of 10

Lots of people have said "Why remake a classic?" or "Is it really necessary to redo a classic animated film as live action?" or even  "Where are the original ideas?"

There are always people who have a hard time with change.  I understand the feeling of "why mess with a classic".  But imagination doesn't have an expiration date!  And artists are always imagining things in new ways.

This movie is familiar. It's the same story, setting, characters (with only 1 addition), and idea - but it's done in a very different way.  It's familiar, yet different.  They didn't mess with the original, they paid homage to it as they told it in a new way.  It's a great movie!

My Synopsis:
So the story is the same story - Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a street rat who has to steal food to stay alive.  He meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who is disguised as her hand maiden, Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), one day in the market and helps her get away from the guards.  They have a connection.  She returns to the palace and Aladdin goes there to return something to her and finds out that she is the Princess.  She is only able to marry a prince.  Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) is the Grand Vizier to the Sultan (David Negahban) and is trying to take over the kingdom unbeknownst to everyone but his trusty bird, Iago (Alan Tudyk).  He is trying to find a "diamond in the rough" to get the genie's lamp out of the Cave of Wonders.  He tries and fails many times, until he sees Aladdin sneaking around the palace.  He convinces him to go inside to get the lamp, but touch nothing else.  It works! Sort of.... Aladdin's monkey friend, Abu, touches a large ruby and the cave closes around them, trapping them inside, along with a flying carpet they find.  Aladdin is looking for a way out when he looks closer at the lamp and rubs it to try to clean it off.  The genie comes out of the lamp and gives him 3 wishes.  I won't go into detail about how they get out of the cave, but I'll tell you that Aladdin's first wish is to be a prince.  He goes to the castle as a prince, kinda disguised, and woos Jasmine.  She figures out it's him, but he tells her he was pretending to be a street rat when they met.  They fall in love, but is the road to true love ever smooth?  Jafar also figures out it's him so he gets the lamp and brings the genie out, and uses him to do his evil bidding.  Then Aladdin and Jasmine work together to fix it.

That's the gist of the story!  :)  It's the same general story, but with a few key changes.  I loved the ending.  Absolutely loved the ending.  In the animated movie it basically ends with the Sultan saying "Am I Sultan, or am I Sultan?"  He realizes he can change the law so that Jasmine can marry who she chooses.  She chooses Aladdin.  Yay!  Good for them.  However - there's more to Jasmine that just waiting for a man.  They don't really flesh that out in the animated movie, it's hinted at, but not shown.  This live action movie shows us her other side.  I liked that.

A few thoughts about the cast:
I loved all of them, with 1 exception.  Mena Massoud is perfect as Aladdin!  He is mischievous and a bit snarky, but kind and sweet, too.  He plays it so well!  I thought his acting was amazing.  I felt like I was watching Aladdin.  His singing was only ok, which is fine for most of his songs - except "A Whole New World" (see thoughts about the music below).

Naomi Scott was a fabulous Princess Jasmine!  She had a great voice and was a great dancer!  The Bollywood numbers were so much fun!  And mixing Bollywood with Hip Hop was absolutely awesome!

Will Smith was a fantastic genie.  That was a tough role to play.  So many people doubting him because he's not Robin Williams.  Well, he didn't try to be Robin Williams.  he made this part his own.  he took nothing away from Mr. William's performance.  He paid homage to it, while making this genie his own.  Now there are 2 awesome genies!  Will is more of a rapper than a singer, but his singing wasn't bad.  I thought he did a great job.

Marwan Kenzari was the low point for me.  I didn't like his Jafar.  I really wanted to.  Jafar is such a great villain.  He played him with a quiet authority.  It didn't work for me.  I felt he was whiny and annoying, not evil and cunning at all.  I saw the choices he was making as an actor.  I didn't see Jafar.  I saw a man trying to play him differently than the original, with a quiet desperation.  I didn't want to see the actor portrayal, I wanted to feel that I was watching Jafar.

The Sultan didn't do much, but Navid Negahban did a good job with the small bit he had.  He wasn't a standout, but he was good.

Dalia is the only major new character, Princess Jasmine's handmaiden.  She was played to absolute perfection by Nasim Pedrad.  She was a great addition to the cast.  She was the character we never had, and didn't know we needed until we saw her.  :). She was great!  And her chemistry with the genie was fantastic.  I loved her quick wittedness (usually!) and her funny lines she threw out.  She was wonderful.

The animals were all really cool!  Rajah was a beautiful tiger!  He looked real!  Abu was fun - a lot like the one in the movie, and in Indiana Jones!  Iago was very cool!  And had a voice!  Of course, the fabulous Alan Tudyk was the voice of Iago.  A small, but important part of the movie.  I did miss some of the snarky lines he had from the animated movie, but it was still cool to see him.

Ok - one of my favorite parts was Prince Anders.  He comes to attempt to win over Jasmine before Aladdin, as Prince Ali, does.  Oh my gosh.  He was hilarious!  When he came on screen I was trying to figure out where I knew him from.  It was driving me crazy!  After the movie all of a sudden "Agony" from "Into the Woods" came into my head and I googled him.  He was Rapunzel's prince in the "Into the Woods" movie!  Billy Magnussen is a definite highlight in the movie, too!  A small, but awesome role!


"Arabian Nights" - Will Smith - same music, and some words the same, but most are reimagined.  It's a great introduction to the movie.

"One Jump Ahead" - Mena Massoud - very much the same as the animated movie, just a bit reimagined.  It's a great intro to Aladdin.  Mena isn't the best singer in the world, but it works for this character.  It's fun.  Although the villagers who chime in - "Still I think he's rather tasty", etc - are only ok.  I feel they were better in the animated version.  Aladdin himself was fantastic!

"Speechless" - Naomi Scott - WOW!  This is a great song!  This is the only original song - Princess Jasmine doesn't have a solo in the animated movie.  That encapsulated Princess Jasmine's feelings.  It's done in 2 parts of the movie.  It adds so much to the story!  It really fleshes out the Jasmine character.

"Friend Like Me" - Will Smith - similar, but different.  Will does a great job with it!  It's got enough different that it doesn't feel like a redo.  Some words are the same, but quite a few are new.  He can never take away from Robin Williams, but he's not trying to.  He did the song with great respect to the original genie.  I think he did a fabulous job with this song.  And the dancing with it!  Holy cow!  It was fun to watch.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again just for the dancing.

"Prince Ali" - Will Smith - This is an absolute MUST-SEE!!!!  It's pretty much the same song from the animated movie, but it's so visually stunning and fun to watch that it was a show stopper!  If it had been on Broadway it would have gotten a standing ovation!  At last from me - and most of the people in the theater with me.  It's a cute song in the animated movie, but not a stand out - but in this movie it was a highlight.  Wow.

"A Whole New World" - Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott - this song accentuates for me that Aladdin's voice is only ok, but Jasmine has a great voice.  Neither of them are quite as "pretty" as the animated one, but it still works.  It's a wonderful visual scene.  It's kind of cool to see the sights in live action - and to see them flying on the carpet is really cool!  It made me feel like it was truly possible to ride a flying carpet!  I would have liked to see more sights - there are a lot of trees and water features - but it was cool to see them fly!

I saw it with my daughter, Ali
Overall, I loved the movie.  It gets a 9 for me because Aladdin's singing voice was only ok, and I didn't care for the Jafar character.  But I loved Aladdin, Jasmine, Dalia, prince Anders, and, of course, Genie!  The music, costumes and sets were amazing!  I have downloaded the music and will absolutely buy the movie when it comes out.

Plus - I'm going to see it again - I'm dying to see the musical numbers again!  :).

Ali and I recorded a podcast episode with our review about 15 minutes after we saw it.  If you'd like to hear those thoughts click on Our Disney Adventures Podcast.

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