I’m not going to lie, I was expecting to be disappointed by Aladdin. I was very excited to see Disney’s Aladdin live-action movie since the moment I heard it was a thing but at the same time, the original Aladdin animated film is such an iconic film that I wasn’t sure anyone could live up to the hype of it. Below is my family friendly, no-spoiler Aladdin review.
In my mind, Robin Williams is the Genie. I couldn’t make myself believe that the Fresh Prince, Will Smith, was up to the task, no matter how much I love him. How can you fill those shoes? You can’t and I just felt like even trying was going to be a disservice to the original.
I also wasn’t sure if I was going to love Rajah and Abu in the live action films because sometimes live-action animals look cringey and so unrealistic that you feel like the producers are just assuming we are all stupid but this was not the case.at.all.
Then there was the matter of Aladdin and Jasmine. As many of you know, they are two of my daughters’ favorite characters. Animated, they were perfection but how would it all translate to live action? I’m sure that you have been asking yourself the same questions. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to worry about any of it. The Disney Aladdin live-action movie surpassed every expectation I had and made me fall in love with the story all over again. In fact, dare I say, I may even love it more than the animated version.
First off, the cinematography was stunning. I felt transported somewhere between Agrabah and Bollywood and it was absolutely magical. The rich vibrant colors were as upbeat and optimistic as most of the songs. Speaking of songs, “I can show you the world” is one of my favorites in the animated film and I loved it even more in the live-action film. It felt more real and tender and hopeful. I’ve been singing it ever since.
Then there was “Speechless” which left me without words in the best possible way. As an outspoken feminist and a mother of daughters, I loved this female empowerment aspect of the movie. We’ve always known Jasmine, Naomi Scott, was and independent, strong-willed and fierce woman. She wasn’t the kind of Disney princess who needed to be rescued.
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Yet, in the animated film, it feels a lot like the street rat saves her. In the live-action movie, you can see that she doesn’t need saving. She can save herself and anyone else who needs to be rescued simply by following her own instincts. She loves and respects Aladdin, they are partners. Love is a beautiful surprise to them both.
As far as the casting for Aladdin goes, I felt the main characters were spot on. I love that they used real people of color rather than white-washing the characters. For me, as a woman of color, cultural authenticity is everything. The fact that Guy Ritchie made the effort to cast, produce and maintain the authenticity and representation of a hybrid Middle Eastern-South Asian world in the movie is commendable. He did the right thing.
Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine was perfection. The perfect balance of beauty, grace, independence, strength and determination. I found myself, several times throughout the movie, wanting to stand up and applaud. It surprised me in the most pleasant ways.
Mena Massoud’s Aladdin was the living embodiment of the spirit of the animated film’s character. He played the part with a quiet, humble endearing demeanor even when he was being flip, he was lovable. There wasn’t one time I wasn’t rooting for him to succeed.
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Will Smith’s Genie was not Robin Smith’s Genie, nor do I think it was supposed to be. That being said, it was a spectacular performance on its own. He made the genie his own. The genie was an unforgettable, witty and affable character who could sing, rap and dance with a side of hilarity. The story of friendship between Genie and Aladdin is a beautiful, tangental love story, as meaningful and important as the one between Jasmine and Aladdin. I think Robin Williams himself would have been impressed by Will Smith’s performance.
The characters I would’ve loved to have seen be bolder were Marwan Kenzari’s, Jafar, and his sidekick, Lago. I felt that their performances were both a little underwhelming considering their potential. For me, their characters felt less menacing and more annoying. I wasn’t afraid of them so much as just aggravated. However, in our current political climate where xenophobia runs rampant, perhaps making a Middle Eastern villain seem less menacing than his animated counterpart was the better choice.
I also loved the addition of Dalia, Nasim Pedrad, Jasmine’s loyal handmaiden and confidante. She brought a humanity to Jasmine and Genie. The addition of the character gave the characters a softer more relatable feel.
If you loved the original Aladdin animated film, you will love Aladdin the live-action film. You don’t have to feel guilty about betraying Robin William’s Genie legacy because Will Smith’s Genie is not the same. It is something completely different. As for the rest of the cast, they told the story of Jasmine and Aladdin with a quiet beauty and ethereal feel. Your children will find new heroes in Jasmine and Aladdin and you, parents, will love what they’ve done.
But we’re split as a family. Bella and I fell in love with the new movie, the feminist empowerment was just the cherry on top. However, the Big Guy and Gabs are Disney purists and they adore the original Aladdin while saying the live-action is great but they prefer the animated classic to the live-action film.
My advice to you, go and see Aladdin for yourself and decide. You won’t be disappointed. Even if in the end you prefer the classic, you will be glad to have seen Disney’s Aladdin the live-action movie. I promise. Then come back here and tell me which one you loved more. Really, it’s like trying to choose a favorite child. We love them all so much.
Disney’s Aladdin playing in theaters now starting May 24th. I’m ready to go see it again. I bet you’ll want to too. Also, the soundtrack is amazing.