Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is nothing more than a street rat. He and his monkey Abu roam the streets of Agrabah, stealing so they can buy food. While in the market one day, he runs into a woman who turns out to be Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) in disguise. Aladdin recognizes that she is not from the streets, but that she must be the princess’ handmaid Dalia (Nasim Pedrad).
Hoping to win over Jasmine, Aladdin is easily recruited by the Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), royal advisor to the Sultan (Navid Negahban). Jafar promises Aladdin that if he retrieves a lamp from the Cave of Wonders, he will receive more riches than he can imagine. Of course, Jafar has no intention of keeping the promise, trapping Aladdin and Abu in the cave as soon as he has the lamp in his hands. Of course, things don’t go according to Jafar’s plan, as Abu swipes the lamp just before they fall into the collapsing cave.
When a living magic carpet inside the cave motions for Aladdin to rub the lamp, he summons the Genie (Will Smith) who lives inside the lamp. Aladdin tricks the Genie into freeing them from the cave without using one of his three wishes. After escaping the cave, the Genie turns Aladdin into Prince Ali, so he can win over Princess Jasmine.
Looking like a prince is the easy part. Acting like a prince and getting Jasmine to like him is another story. Aladdin gets Genie to distract Dalia so he can have some alone time with Jasmine. Once he starts to act like himself, the Aladdin Jasmine met in the market, she begins to open up to him. The problem is, Jasmine and Jafar start to realize who he really is. That is when the trouble starts.
Aladdin is the latest in the line of live-action remakes of Disney classics. Disney has figured out the formula for taking already beloved movies and updating them for today’s audiences.
Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott do an excellent job as Aladdin and Jasmine. They stay faithful to the characters from the animated version. Scott gives Jasmine more independence and confidence than her animated counterpart, if you can imagine that. Jasmine was already pretty strong-willed and not wanting to accept the status quo. Add in the vocal talent of Scott and Massoud and you have some strong performances. I’ll admit I originally had my reservations about Will Smith as the Genie. Filling Robin Williams’ shoes is a big ask. Smith steps up to the task, keeping a lot of what made Williams’ Genie so enjoyable while adding his own spin on the character. Overall, it is a very strong cast, with Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar being the weak link, if there is one.
I “grew up” on Disney’s animated version of Aladdin. I could probably still sing every word of every song and quote most of the dialog. (Yes, I was almost an adult when it came out.) When I heard Disney was doing a live-action remake, I was concerned. There was no way they could translate a magical blue genie into a real person. As the movie started, I realized that it would be better than I expected. Many of the scenes are shot-for-shot remakes, keeping it true enough to the original for those of us who know and love the animated version. They change a few and add in enough to make it feel fresh and not just a tired rehashing of the story. Guy Ritchie is an interesting choice to direct this movie, though. You can definitely tell he had his hands in the mix, but it definitely works all together.
With its memorable songs and fun story, Aladdin is great for a family movie night on a long weekend. Parents will reminisce about their childhood as the kids get to experience the magic for the first time. Catch it in the theater to experience the full spectacle.