When the first Aladdin movie came out in 1992, I was thirteen years old. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air had been on the air for two years, and Will Smith was already a household name (well, in my house anyway). If you would have told me back then that two of my thirteen-year-old self’s favorite things would be mashed together in 27 years, I would not have believed you.
That brings us to Aladdin (2019) which I will heretofore only refer to as Aladdin. It’s the latest in a line of Disney live-action remakes that have been, for the most part, pretty mediocre. None of them bad or great; each only serving to scratch an itch of nostalgia for all the early 90s kids who now have all the money.
But this movie — this movie is AMAZING! I cannot stress enough how much I loved this movie. I’m honestly debating whether it gets the top spot over Avengers: Endgame or not. I liked it that much. I smiled the entire time. Every actor breathed life into their characters, not by mimicking the cartoon, but by embracing the spirit of them. Add to that some breathtaking scenery and wonderful choreography, and not much can go wrong.
First off, we gotta talk about Will Smith. To take on this iconic Robin Williams role and absolutely nail it seemed impossible going in, but Smith did exactly that. He infused the Genie with the Fresh Prince and ended up with something lovable, unique, and exciting. It’s been a while since Smith has gone full Will Smith on us, but he’s back on his 90s A-game here. It’s not just the rapping, either. His acting is on point, giving the Genie more pathos and the relationship with Aladdin more heft.
To quickly go over all of the other wonderful actors, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott were born to play Aladdin and Jasmine. They even have Disney eyes! Both deliver wonderful performances and they can sing! The supporting cast is also quite good, particularly the Sultan. And lastly, Jafar. Based on the trailers, I thought they’d completely screwed him up, but it turns out that this slimy incarnation of him fits perfectly with the movie and makes him somehow more menacing than the mustache-twirling cartoon version.
And my favorite thing about the movie — the incredible sense of place. We shan’t forget that Aladdin is set in the middle east. The cartoon pays homage to that, sure, but this movie embraces it to its fullest. Every set, every dance, and almost every actor celebrates the culture, and Alan Menken’s score takes on new life with such a rich tapestry behind it.
They did change quite a bit of the story, all for the better. They added subplots, strengthened characters, and rewrote the jokes for both Will Smith and a modern day audience. In particular, Jasmine comes out much stronger here, oozing with the agency she always deserved.
Is it all perfect? Almost, but not quite. Some of the CG with the Genie is a bit sloppy, which is mind-boggling with today’s tech. They have seen Avatar and what they do with Hulk nowadays, right? Also, Jasmine gets a new ballad which is beautiful, but sounds like it came out of Frozen or Moana instead of Aladdin. I would have liked to have seen it stick a little closer to the musical roots of the rest of the soundtrack.
All minor quibbles in the end, though. I absolutely adore this movie so much that I may choose to watch it instead of the original when I feel the need to get my Aladdin fix. It’s a perfect balance between a remake and a re-imagining, and if it doesn’t leave you with a smile, then I don’t know what will.
Rating: 5 stars
Should you watch it? Please!
Should you take your kids? Of course (though it is longer than the cartoon)
What you should watch first: Aladdin (1992)