If you know me at all, you know that the original 1992 animated Aladdin is my all time favorite movie. It’s not even a question. I can probably quote the entire film, I watch it every year on my birthday, I’ve seen it on Broadway, I chase Al at Disneyland, it’s my ultimate happy place. Obviously that means there was a lot riding on this remake for me, and I’ve never been so scared to see a film. All of the Disney remakes thus far have been beautiful in the moment, but quickly forgotten, rendering them unnecessary at best. But it could very easily be so much worse than that. I won’t go into all the fears I had, but as a result I went into the film with very tempered expectations.
I’d gone to the very first early AM Dolby screening that Friday while I was still in Chicago. I had just enough time to watch the movie then catch an uber to my buddy’s thesis defense. It started with Will Smith singing Arabian Nights, not the best singer, but it got the job done. I noticed some updated lyrics and a bit of the Broadway arrangement. We started moving into the first couple scenes when it hit me: this was working! Everything was going to be okay! I teared up out of relief and then allowed myself to just sit back and bask in the magic of it all.
Don’t get me wrong, it in no way holds a candle to the original, but there was a lot going for it that I enjoyed. For me, the biggest win was Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. Jas has always been my favorite princess by default (even though I really hate that I essentially pick her because I love her man), but Scott EARNED that title. I love that the Princess has always been strong independent woman who will not be tied down by any man, but this princess took it one step further. She didn’t ,just not wanna be a prize to be won, she wanted to be the freaking sultan and rule over the kingdom. YAASSS QUEEN! (SULTAN) She even had a new song (and its reprise) to prove exactly how powerful she could be AND there were some slight changes along the way that made her much more pivotal to the story. All the yes!
More yes: it looked gorgeous. The costumes, the sets, the Disney magic. All of it was stunning (and I really hope there’s a costume Oscar in this film’s future). We had some big Bollywood dancing (Aladdin could dance! Even if there were some stunt doubles involved).
Now about Will Smith as the Genie. He may have been the most controversial element going in. Few had faith in him, but I wasn’t actually too concerned. We all knew he’d never be Robin Williams, and he had the foresight to not try to go that route. Those first costume photos suggested to me that he’d be going the Broadway/James Monroe Iglehart route. He didn’t quite go there either. He was the Fresh Prince genie. It worked, but I felt like he played it a bit safe. They didn’t expand Friend Like Me like they could have (the Broadway upgrade is a literal showstopper–standing O midshow). Outside the songs tho, he certainly had the charisma and the presence to be the Genie. He may have been a little lackluster, but he didn’t drown.
Look there’s so much more I can talk about with this one. I’ve been talking about it non stop for the past week. Hell, I’ve been talking about it since it was announced. Again, everyone knows how much I love Aladdin so everyone knows I have an opinion here, and everyone knows I’m more than happy to give movie opinions on command. This will still never touch the original. Maybe it didn’t need to exist (except maybe to update a few problematic cultural issues). But I prolly would have been upset if this never got a shot at a live action redo. Anyways, all that is to get to my point that as a companion piece to the original, it’s a nice film. I thoroughly loved my visit to Agrabah, and it’s nice having another way to get there.
Aladdin – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/