Summary: A kind-hearted street urchin and a power-hungry Grand Vizier vie for a magic lamp that has the power to make their deepest wishes come true.
I think it needs to be said as I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews compare it to the animated version. YOU CAN’T COMPARE THE MERITS OF A MOVIE OFF OF IT’S PREDECESSOR! It’s destined to fail regardless if you do that. Yes, it’s a remake but it’s still its own movie and should be judged as such. As I’ve said before, I’ve been very optimistic about these remakes and I had such high hopes for this one. Probably even more so than the others.
You can read the two other posts about this movie. A trailer review and a thoughts piece.
I’m making sure not to have spoilers, at least nothing that will ruin the movie, or at least nothing that you don’t already know from being familiar with the animated film or that’s in the trailers.
Cast and Characters.
Mena Massoud as Aladdin. He is an impoverished Agrabah thief and “street rat” whose been doing his thing for years. He steals because he must, but we see just how selfless he can be when he gets some food after a pretty good score and gives his food to a kid and his family. When he meets Jasmine and they go on their adventure in the city, he falls for her because she seems to understand him and vice versa. They have a connection and he’s interested in pursuing it. He believes that he might have a chance at something he might not have had before. He then gets mixed up in a task from Jafar and starts to think of how he can impress a princess as he doesn’t want to let their connection go. Aladdin is a pure character, very sincere in the beginning. He’s smart, he understands how the world works and while he might wish things were different, he isn’t mad at the world. I’ve always liked that about him. His situation is the situation and when he gets the chance to make it better, he isn’t automatically thinking of “I want riches”, “I want power”, he just wants to be with the girl he fell for. It’s naive but it’s innocent. He never intentionally sets out to be a liar. We see that about him. As the film goes on, we see him start to fall into the lie he’s created, and he gets punished for it in different ways and then must find a way to come back from all of that. Mena Massoud is my age, I think about 27 but he has a youthful energy about him in this movie which I really loved. I loved watching him play one of my favorite characters and one of my first crushes lol. He’s very handsome with a smile to die for and big brown eyes which helps the charm that Aladdin has. He has some great facial expressions he gives in certain parts of the movie and The Genie is right in saying “kid, is it just me or does everything surprise you?” and even Mena Massoud says that the best emoji face for Aladdin is the “surprised emoji” because his reaction to things he’s not used to is just so pure. I think he has a nice singing voice and I wonder just how much of the stunts he does because Aladdin does a TON of stunts in this movie. Whether he’s jumping off buildings, falling out of windows, hanging off walls/cliffs etc. I also love to see just how good of a thief Aladdin is. He is REALLY good at his job and I was so impressed at how much I liked him in the role. Great job Mena! I can’t wait to see you reprise this role in the SEQUEL! I AM CLAIMING IT NOW! Also, any future projects. I will be keeping my eye on you.
Will Smith as Genie. The genie is a being who has been stuck inside of a lamp for 1000 years, but he is surprisingly chill about it. Obviously, he wants to get out more, be outside and everything but he’s not like cranky. He is kind, eccentric and just a lot of fun. He has the power to grant the three wishes of anyone who possesses his magic lamp. He is an all-powerful being. He is a bit of a trickster in ways, but he becomes a great mentor figure to Aladdin. He comes to care for the kid and wants to see him be true and honest to himself. He seems to not want him to fall into any issues that he might have seen previous masters fall into. The Genie sees the greatness within Aladdin and he wants him to be more confident in the power he has inside of himself. He even says to him (which is the trailer) “I changed what you looked like on the outside, but I didn’t change anything on the inside” and I think that’s one of his best lines because that’s so true and he wants Aladdin to see that for himself. Will Smith did have big shoes to fill thanks to Robin Williams iconic and memorable performance, but I worked hard to not compare it, but I think he manages to pay homage to what Robin Williams did while also making the role his own. Just like Robin Williams pretty much played Robin Williams, Will Smith plays Will Smith as the Genie. He had great chemistry with Mena Massoud. He really felt like a father/brother figure to him and he was very energetic and clearly had fun while playing the part. I think he managed to make the role his own and while he might not be as memorable, I think what he did deserves praise. His jokes were funny, particularly the “brass” one. I don’t know why but I cackled each time I saw it at that part. Smith said he pulled from a lot of his earlier characters for the role and in certain places you can see that. I also liked a lot of his emotional and more serious moments, like at the Harvest Festival when he’s telling Aladdin that he didn’t change anything on the inside. Or the part where he finds out Aladdin probably won’t use his third wish to set him free. I thought he did very well in both of those parts and I loved his dialogue in the serious moments. Great job Will Smith! I was a little nervous, but I really enjoyed him!
Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. She is the Sultan’s daughter who is feisty and wants to have control over her life. When we first meet her, it’s in the city where she’s already out there seeing how he people live. She’s young and there’s a lot that she must learn but at the same time, she smart and quick on her feet. She wants to be Sultan because she feels like she knows her kingdom and people more than any outsider Prince would. She has more than just “I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love” but that she can’t rule because she’s a woman. I know some people complain about “forced feminism” but I think that’s just ridiculous because it gives her more reason to turn down these Princes. She goes through more than just trying to decide who she’ll marry. She also must find her voice and the courage to speak out for her people and herself, whether it’s against her father or Jafar. I’ve always liked Jasmine, but I feel like she’s given more of a personality in this. In the animated version, she’s pretty one dimensional and we get to know her more in sequels and the TV show, but we know a lot of her here and I think you root for her more because of that. She loves her city and feels some type of way that she isn’t allowed to go out and experience it more, she really wants to be someone who can lead. Naomi Scott does all this well. I think she is the stand out in the film. She is a great reactionary actress. I love how expressive her eyes are. Whenever someone is saying something that is really affecting her, her eyes grow large and if she’s trying to hold back tears, you see that in her entire body. I was really impressed, and I really liked her. Great job Naomi! Plus, she absolutely KILLS her new song “Speechless”. I get chills every time I hear it. She also has great chemistry with Mena Massoud and I think their chemistry really elevates the story between Jasmine and Aladdin.
Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. In this he is a young man, the Grand Vizier of Agrabah and the Sultan’s chief advisor. He is frustrated with how the Sultan rules and wants to overthrow him once he acquires the Genie’s lamp. We get to know more about him in this movie. We learn a bit about his childhood and he even relate to Aladdin in some ways, he’s honest about that. I think because he’s a young man he comes off way more desperate. He may have played the patient game but it’s not like he’s an older man whose been biding his time for years. He’s somehow made it high up in the ranks to be closer to the Sultan and give him advice. Plus, he seems to have a penchant for war as he advises him on that in some areas. I quite liked Jafar in this. I don’t think he’s as scary or intimidating as he is in the animated film (which is one of the few times I compared the two) but that’s part of the interesting thing in his character. He’s not really intimidating but he tries to be, and he even has this crazy thing about him. There’s a place where Jafar calls out to Aladdin (as Prince Ali) and when Aladdin kind of dismisses him, he almost yells but tries to compose himself because they were in public. I love that lol. Also, later when he gets the lamp, his reaction is so great. I was okay with him not being this oily kind of man but a desperate young man. I think Marwan Kenzari was good and dynamic in the role. He’s almost a bit tragic, in a pitiful way. I hope there’s a sequel “Return of Jafar” because I would love to see him return with bigger intentions. He threatened Aladdin big time and I want to see them face off!
Navid Negahban as The Sultan. He doesn’t have this large role, but he is wise and noble and he’s very eager to find a capable husband for his daughter. He is kind but not goofy and aloof. He wants the best for his daughter and everything he does is to secure the future for Jasmine. He has a few active moments towards the end of the film. Navid Negahban is good in the role, he has a commanding presence which fit the world they created in this film. I was glad he wasn’t silly and easily manipulated.
Nasim Pedrad as Dalia. She is Jasmine’s loyal handmaiden and confidante. She clearly has been by Jasmine’s side for a long time and I liked her. Dalia was funny and sure she was comedic relief, but it wasn’t in your face and annoying, at least not to me. I just loved that Jasmine had someone to talk to and bounce her thoughts, dreams and feelings off of, because Rajah is great, but he can’t talk back to her ya know? Nasim Pedrad has great facial expressions, especially when she’s talking to the Genie in later scenes or even reacting to things between Aladdin and Jasmine.
Character Chemistry. There are a few interesting relationships we get in this film where the chemistry between the actors is strong.
Aladdin and Abu. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this one because Abu isn’t a human but the friendship between Aladdin and Abu is important because they’ve been living together for X amount of years. They have a routine of how they do things, how they steal and all of that. Plus, I’m not sure how often Abu is a CGI monkey, but Mena Massoud really made it seem like he was best friends with his monkey, friend and partner.
Aladdin and Jasmine. Obviously, the main relationship of the film and it’s important that they have a good relationship and chemistry with each other. I love the fact that she’s with him while he’s singing “One Jump” which allows both us and Jasmine to see how well he knows the city. They have a connection from the first moment he saves her from the accusing vendor and says, “Do you trust me?” they have a moment. Later, in his home, they have a chance to talk and get to know each other a bit more before she ends up going back home, even with a negative thought in her mind about him. He likes her so much that he even attempts to see her again. He even willingly goes into the Cave to hopefully find a way to impress her. As Prince Ali, he’s awkward with her and it makes for a lot of endearing and humorous moments. I think the movie hits a lot of important beats for these two where their romance is young and innocent, and you root for them. Plus, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott have great chemistry!! Even watching them in interviews I’m like “O. O”.
Aladdin and Genie. Their friendship is one of the crux of the movie. They meet in the cave when Aladdin releases him from the lamp and at first, it’s weird because Aladdin isn’t what the Genie thought would be the master, but then they build this friendship to the point where Aladdin trusts the Genie and vice versa. It’s a brotherhood and we see it grow as the movie continues. We see how much the Genie grows to care about this kid and how Aladdin looks up to him and even feels some type of way whenever the Genie seems disappointed in them. You get invested in their relationship. Will Smith and Mena Massoud have great chemistry together as well. They play off each other well and I was invested in their friendship.
Jasmine and Dahlia. Dahlia is Jasmine’s handmaiden and her friend. This relationship gave Jasmine another person, who understood her and believed in her, to talk too. Sure, she had Rajah, but he can’t talk back to her so giving her a friend I think, worked out. Dahlia is protective of Jasmine and vice versa, she encourages her, and I think Naomi Scott and Nasim Pedrad played off each other well.
Aladdin and Jafar. Aladdin and Jafar meet when they go to the Cave of Wonders. There is a tension being built between the two. Jafar clearly sees a bit of himself in Aladdin and he even has an honest conversation with him in some ways. As the film goes on and they meet again later when he’s Prince Ali, there’s a suspicion and dislike there from Jafar and of course Aladdin remembers him. So, there’s a tension that builds between the two whenever they’re in a scene together. I’ll mention their ending a bit later, but I was hoping for this tension to clash big time.
Production Design. Gemma Jackson who did production design work on Game of Thrones led the design here. I love the design of the world. In the opening credits while Will Smith is singing “Arabian Nights”, we go through Agrabah, through the marketplace and the palace. We pretty much get a quick look at what all the main characters are doing in that moment. Agrabah looks so realistic, crowded and like a thriving port city. Plus, we get to see that Aladdin really knows the city, I mean during “One Jump” he really goes through a lot of areas in the city and it allows us to see just how cast Agrabah is. When we see Aladdin’s home, it looks like something he would be able to throw together being someone of poor means. We don’t get to see a ton of inside the palace, but we do get very nice shots of the outside of the palace which is beautiful and the designs in some of the rooms we do visit are also beautiful. The Cave of Wonders also looks cool. The tiger face is put into the side of the mountain, which makes more sense. I liked that it looks like the inside of a mountain and that Aladdin had to really climb up this rock pillar (I mean he did a lot of climbing in this movie lol) to reach the lamp. I do think it looks like a set in some areas but once I got into the movie, which happened quickly, it doesn’t stand out as being a set that much.
Costume Design. Michael Wilkinson oversees the costumes, and these are some of my favorite costumes in the live action Disney movie spectrum. I love all of Jasmine’s outfits. I mean, most of them I’d seen before in the trailers and in promo photos but seeing them in the movie, like when she first walks down the stairs in that pink dress, like omg it’s so beautiful. Seeing her iconic blue outfit during the Harvest Ball and the “Whole New World” sequence is so beautiful! The attention to detail on her costumes. Just WOW! Also, Aladdin’s Prince Ali look is also a fantastic take on his iconic look and the color, while it was always white, it just looks so great on Mena and of course I like how he got a close shave and a haircut to add to the look. I also liked that he didn’t walk around wearing a giant turban lol. The Genie’s human look is based off the Broadway show which I thought when I saw it, but it’s also great. I love the colors on Will Smith’s skin. Aladdin’s “street thief” look is also nice. I know some people were upset because he’s wearing a shirt, and sure, I get it, especially since Mena Massoud is a gym guy (I follow him on IG) and he has a nice physique but I didn’t mind that he actually wore clothes because with all the stuff he’s doing, all the stealing what not, if he’s not wearing clothes that can fit his lifestyle then why have that lifestyle ya know? Like his red hoodie vest thing is great, all the pockets in that thing. I love how he uses it in the beginning when he’s stealing. GAH! I love the costumes.
The Soundtrack. Okay, every song from the animated film is in the movie. Will Smith starts us off singing “Arabian Nights” and there are different words in there. I was a little shocked at first when Will Smith started singing because I don’t think I ever really heard him sing, I’ve heard him rap, but the singing shocked me, and I think he sounds good. The arrangement of the music is also nice, I really got into the flow of it. Mena Massoud sings both “One Jump” and the reprise of that “Riff raff, street rat… I don’t buy that” that one and I think he sounds rather nice. “Friend Like Me” also gets a funky upgrade which I also like and its Will Smith in his element of the music he used to rap but it is still what you remember. He throws his own Will Smith flavor into it. “A Whole New World” is lovely and I think Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud sound good together. He almost sounds like Brad Kane sometimes. “Prince Ali” also gets a bit of an upgrade in the flavor of the song. Now, Jasmine gets a solo song “Speechless” which I knew about, and you hear it twice. The first time, it’s like a pep talk to herself and it’s only a few bars. Later, she sings it again as more of her anthem and I really like this song. It does feel out of place in terms of the arrangement and the “pop-like” sound it has, but Naomi Scott really kills it vocally and the arrangement doesn’t even matter to me because the lyrics make sense for her character.
Big Spectacle Sequences. Some of the songs have a smaller moment happening while they’re being performed on screen, like the first “Speechless” is just a quiet moment for Jasmine. “Arabian Nights” is the song for the opening so we get introduced into the world during that. But “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali” and “One Jump” are probably the ones that have a lot going on. “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are the Genie’s songs, so he gets to use his magic to show Aladdin what to expect and he goes all out. “Friend Like Me” is probably my favorite out of the two sequences we get from The Genie. It’s what “Be Our Guest” in Beauty and the Beast should have been. Plus, Aladdin gets to dance during this scene and I don’t know how much Mena Massoud did, but it was fun to watch Aladdin and the Genie get down. “Prince Ali” is probably the bigger of the two spectacles in theory, but it was very subdued to me and it was fun. I mostly liked watching Aladdin be all awkward up there as people are looking at him in awe.
It’s Really Funny. The first time I saw it, I had a good crowd, there was a lot of people laughing in places and sometimes people laughing is funnier than what’s happening on screen. When I saw it again later, there was a couple next to me who were super cute laughing at stuff. BUT the movie is funny. Aladdin in this is confident in ways but he’s also a young man. I’m not sure his age exactly, but he has some great dialogue. One of my favorite moments, is when he gets caught by some guards and the big one says “Evening” in his deep timbre and Aladdin says “evening” but it’s all high pitched and he clears his throat to sound more confident. Cute and funny. Mena Massoud has some nice comedic timing. Abu gets some laughs. The Genie got a lot of laughs from me. I mean, it’s Will Smith being Will Smith. Some of my favorite stuff for him is during the Harvest Festival scene. Jafar has some moments. Iago does as well. He talks but it’s like full blown conversations, he sounds like a parrot, but he’ll say shady stuff. Dahlia also has some good comedic moments as well. It’s lighthearted fun.
Guy Ritchie’s Style. This will be both here and in the con section. Guy Ritchie was an odd choice to film this movie, but I understand it because he films action well and while there isn’t like huge action sequences, there are smaller moments where we have action. During “One Jump” it’s a whole action piece of Aladdin and Jasmine running through the city. When Aladdin goes into the Cave of Wonders, he slides down a sandy hill, he gets pushed out of a window… Aladdin goes through a lot in this movie lol. In the pushed-out window scene, you see it in the trailer, not a spoiler, it does get slowed down and I like it in that moment. It slows down so you can see the terror on his face and then it speeds up in time to see him hit that water and boy… PAINFUL lol. Then of course the chase scene at the end, Ritchie loves chase scenes lol. I would like to see the movie in someone else’s hands who may have more experience in doing a movie like this, but I think his style is fine.
Guy Ritchie’s Style. I don’t think this is wholly a con, but there are some instances where it seems weird. Guy Ritchie has his style when it comes to action. I’ve only seen a couple of his movies, but he has a style and it’s evident in this movie at times. During “One Jump” there is a part where Aladdin and Jasmine are walking away from the guards and they are oddly sped up in that moment. Like, they look like they’re walking normally, but it’s like two seconds faster. It’s just a bit weird. He also loves to do the slow-mo. moments that then go back into the action. It doesn’t happen a lot but if you don’t like when people do that in actions movies then it might get on your nerves.
Inconsistent CGI. There are times when I think Abu and Rajah look a little weird. I mean, I know Disney can do CGI well because Jungle Book is beautiful and so seamless but it’s just a few times where it doesn’t look the best. Same can be said of The Genie. I don’t think he looked as jarring as he looked when we first saw him in the teaser where it was like “Ummm” it fits much better in the movie. HOWEVER, there are plenty of times where his face looked really CGI and it wasn’t as seamless and it should have been. I think Will Smith did motion capture for the role and sometimes it doesn’t always translate well. It looks very uncanny valley. I don’t mind how his body looks, or any of that, I mean harping on him being “jacked” is just childish because he’s a Genie, so what? lol the CGI is just odd at times.
Anti-climactic Face Off. At the end of the film where Jafar has the lamp and all that stuff and Aladdin is trying to save Agrabah from him, I was into the chase scene (something that Guy Ritchie does well) but I was hoping for a faceoff between Aladdin and Jafar that was more than just a conversation. I think it was well acted by everyone in the scene, particularly Marwan Kenzari but they built up this tension between Aladdin and Jafar the entire movie and not much came of it, at least not the way I think it should have. They left it open for a sequel and I’m hoping for a sequel. “Return of Jafar” sure, but make sure it’s like good and stuff because I don’t really like the animated movie lol. I just wish that the climax held the same energy that the movie held in other places. It doesn’t quite stick the triumph of Jafar’s defeat the way it should/could have.
Overall, I LOVED Aladdin. I knew I was probably going to like it, but I loved it. I think all the acting is good and they all fit into their character roles well. I do believe Naomi Scott really shines in the film, Will Smith does a great job with the Genie and newcomer Mena Massoud really holds his own and I can’t wait to watch everything he does next. We see what we’re familiar with but also with some updated personality traits I think work for the film. The production design is amazing and Agrabah looks great. The costume design is BEAUTIFUL and one of my favorite things about the movie. The soundtrack has an updated sound to it and still maintains the upbeat and catchy sounds it’s known for. I love the chemistry built up between different characters and the tension we get between Aladdin and Jafar as they seemed to be cut from the same cloth just had different destinies thrust upon them. I think Guy Ritchie’s style of directing works in the film for the most part. This movie isn’t perfect no matter how much I seem to be singing its praises. Ritchie’s style comes off awkward at different points in the film, just as the CGI doesn’t always hold up, particularly on the Genie at times. I also wish the climax was much bigger because there was plenty of potential for that and it just doesn’t hit the way it should have. With all that said. I’m probably one of the few critics who wrote a review and absolutely loved it.
SOOOOO take that as you will.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Aladdin? What are your thoughts on the film? What is your favorite of the live action Disney remakes so far? Which one are you most looking forward to?