A whole new (remade) world

May 29, 2019

As a late 90s, early 2000s kid, I always felt like I missed out on the Will Smith craze. Too young for the Fresh Prince Era, and mostly knowing him for projects like “After Earth” and “Suicide Squad,” I never truly understood why Will Smith was once referred to as the “most powerful actor in Hollywood.” Because of this, I was one of the many people to feel skeptical of the choice to make Smith the Genie, a role made immortal by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated film. However, after watching the film, I was shocked.


Smith lives up to his star power. The man is charismatic and has a magnetic personality. He brings heart and humor to the character, and the Prince Ali number is one of the film’s highlights. Even in memeable blue hue, he is a high point of the film. Unlike what many people feared, Will Smith is not the problem in this film.


 He’s no Robin Williams, but that’s not a bad thing. | © Disney


Like most Disney remakes, it follows closely to its source material. Aladdin, played well by newcomer Mena Massoud, is a thief in the vaguely Middle Eastern (both in citizens and in accents) city of Agrabah. He meets the princess Jasmine, (Naomi Scott) and is given a chance to win her if he helps the wicked Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). In doing so, he finds a magical lamp, containing a Genie who will give him three wishes. Though Aladdin can now wish for whatever he wants, he struggles with the fact that he can’t gain Jasmine’s heart through money and power.



 The two romantic leads meet-cute in the Bollywood styled marketplace. | © Disney


There are significant character additions to flesh out the story. Jasmine’s new character arc is excellent. While in the animated film, Jasmine is primarily motivated by wanting to get outside more, and wanting to get married for love. Unlike her cartoon counterpart, live-action Jasmine is focused entirely on becoming a ruler in her beloved home country. Jafar’s character is also bolstered, and making his story parallel to Aladdin’s was a stroke of genius. There is also a fun group of side characters populating Agrabah, most notably Nasim Pedrad as Jasmine’s handmaid, and Billy Magnussen as a foreign Prince.


This Jasmine wants to do more than just stroll through the market. | © Disney


Filled with memorable songs by Alan Menken, the score features fresh and lush orchestrations. However, Jasmine’s new song, Speechless, featuring lyrics by the popular song writers Pasek and Paul, feels like it belongs in a completely different movie. The cast are all fine singers, but when I want to listen to these songs again, I’ll probably stick with the original film.


Truly, the movie is at its best when it indulges in its opulence and grandeur. Seeing nearly 1,000 dancers in over the top Bollywood costumes prance through the city of Agrabah was incredible. Less exciting, though, was watching the iconic number, Friend Like Me, which is done almost entirely in CGI. The unpleasant design and quality of the digital characters and animals distracted from the otherwise stunning sets and costumes.


 The film is at its best during its over the top moments. | © Disney


All in all, unlike many of the more recent remakes, I’d recommend this film to any fan of the original. The strong cast is full to the brim with fresh faces and the designs are breathtaking. While it does have distracting CGI, the moments where it heavily relies on it are few and far between, something other remakes should take note of (*cough* “Beauty and the Beast,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Dumbo,” “Jungle Book.” *cough*)


Dance to the nearest movie theater to catch this fun flick. | © Disney

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