Written by: Vanessa Bañuelos-Dawson
Disney’s ALADDIN soars into theatres this weekend with the tough job of following in the footsteps of animation gold.
The story of Aladdin centers on a poor but good-hearted young man (Mena Massoud as Aladdin) as he attempts to impress the girl of his dreams (Naomi Scott as Jasmine) with the help of magical friends (Will Smith as Genie).
Riding on the heels of Beauty and the Beast’s live action success in 2017, Disney gambles on bringing the film’s memorable cast of characters into a whole new world. Disney’s decision to green-light Aladdin as a live-action is tough in that the whimsical aspects of the most memorable sidekicks appear less dimensional and less interesting.
Prior to shooting, director Guy Ritchie took a lot of heat from the movie world when casting Will Smith as Genie—because let’s face it, Robin Williams is a tough act to follow. I was most hesitant about what to expect from Smith, but in the end, he genuinely helps the film grow into a more grown-up version of the original story.
Though the film delivers all the poignant scenes you know and love from the animated original, it does bring to light some of the problematic dramas involved with its main characters. This is the film’s redeeming quality—its awareness of its characters true intentions, especially Jasmine and villain Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Though Aladdin centers on its main protagonist, the film’s diamonds in the rough are conversations Jasmine and Jafar’s dreams for themselves and the fictional nation of Agrabah.
The film’s ending proceeds as you might expect, but attempts something different with Jasmine. Though two original songs are written for her (the only ones unique to the live-action), a powerful punch isn’t made until the end in a conversation with her father. If this point were fleshed out more effectively in the plot, Jasmine would have experienced the most poignant development of all the film’s characters.
Aladdin is a visual masterpiece, with gorgeous cinematography (Alan Stewart) adding a crispness to the film’s enjoyable choreography. As always, Alan Menken’s music injects another layer of life, and brings the nostalgia home.
Vanessa Bañuelos-Dawson is a Disney-loving, nonprofit professional based in Southern California. She contributes to lifestyle blogs when not enjoying the sights, sounds, and shopping at Disneyland. A graduate (B.A. and M.A.) of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film, she’s an avid fan of movies.