Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Theatrical Review
When Robin Williams left the world entirely too soon, he all but retired every character he ever played. No one in their right mind would agree to step in and play Patch Adams, Mork, Alan Parrish, Armand Goldman, or Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was more than a trendsetter, he was a revolutionary. In each of his roles, he would create magic, and as the voice and character of Genie in Disney’s animated Aladdin, he was untouchable.
So when Disney began their search for their live-action Genie, it is easy to see why fans and critics were skeptical. How and why would any actor want to attempt to replicate what Robin Williams built? When the news that Will Smith was the favorite to play the role, there were collective “boos” heard around the globe. Sure Will Smith has an eclectic character resume and is a gifted artist, but is he Robin Williams? Of course not! But he was a marvelous Genie.
Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin hit on all cylinders when it was released in theaters on May 24th, 2019. The story changes modernized the character and plot development, and the music kept audiences tapping their feet for the 120-minute runtime. The newly introduced musical numbers never felt out of place, the new plot depth made us care about the story even more, and the real world interpretation of Agrabah was magnificent.
Even while shattering expectations, there was some minor cause for concern. The film’s title character Aladdin, played by relative newcomer Mena Massoud (Jack Ryan), was just so-so. Sure he did everything asked of him, and he was a wonderful singing voice, but he was outshined by others in the cast. Another issue was the quality of CGI coming from a mega-giant like Disney. Especially early in the film, the CGI was lackluster. If you wanted to nitpick Will Smith’s Genie, it took a couple of songs for him to catch his rhythm. But make no mistake, he does hit his stride.
One of the brightest spots was Princess Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott (Power Rangers). Not only did she command the screen in all of her scenes, but she also blew the audience away with “Speechless”, a new song added to the film. The song is a testament of strength and courage in the face of tyranny. One that young boys and young girls need to hear. It is easy to see why young girls would want to be like Princess Jasmine after Scott’s performance.
The Sultan, played by Navid Negahban (12 Strong), and Jafar, Marwan Kenzari (Ben-Hur), lifted up their characters in new ways that brought a more robust plot dynamic that dabbled in the ignorance of tradition, and the negativity that can accompany a “rags to riches” story. There are still plenty of laughs from the likes of characters like Dalia, played by Nasim Pedra (Saturday Night Live), and Prince Anders, Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods). Our favorite animal characters Apu, Iago, and Rajah are still as wonderful as ever.
Overall, Aladdin exceeded expectations, and after a week in the box office, viewers and critics agree. This movie gave song and dance, and trial and tribulation, in a way only Disney can. There are several live-action films still coming in the next three years, and if you throw Dumbo out, Disney has set the standard to keep these movies entertaining.
Next up is Lion King (July 18th). Are you ready?
Check out Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine singing “Speechless” in the clip below.
A Disney Classic
Aladdin is a lovable street rat who meets Princess Jasmine, the daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. While trying to change his life, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie setting of a turn of events that could lead to true love and self-acceptance.