I was excited and a little nervous to see this new rehash of Aladdin. Expectations were not high for this remake and it has had a bumpy road to it’s release. Nobody felt that Robin William’s take on the genie could ever be reproduced. Then Will Smith was cast as the genie and everybody became even more nervous. With all that said, I am very pleased to say that I actually enjoyed this 2019 remake. This modern iteration had me smiling the whole time with it’s over the top dance numbers, likable leads and story modifications. This new Aladdin truly rounds out this Disney classic.
Will Smith knocks it out of the park as the genie and makes the character his own. I think we can all breath a sigh of relief that he was never trying to imitate Robin Williams. He instead breaths new life into this character. Between the two big song and dance numbers “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” I preferred “Prince Ali” a bit more. Both were very fun and energetic, but “Prince Ali” really brought everything to the table and I wanted to get up and sing along. This time around the genie gets a love in Jasmine’s hand maid Dalia, played to perfection by SNL alum Nasim Pedrad.
I loved the update to Jafar’s story. In this versions he was formerly a thief, like Aladdin, who had nothing to his name. Instead of being pure evil, Jafar seeks to be the most powerful man in the room. We see Aladdin deal with this very temptation and ultimately choose the right path. Marwan Kenzari plays Jafar and does a great job of not making him to hammy and just the right kind of charming mixed with deceitfullness.
The two leads Naomi Scott, who plays Jasmine, and newcomer Mena Massoud, who plays the titular character Aladdin, have wonderful chemistry and do a fantastic job with their roles. Massoud does an admirable job singing against Scott, whose pipes were born to sing these songs (and really any songs). Scott sings an original song titled “Speechless” which doesn’t quite fit in with the older songs, but she brings the roof down with how well she belts the tune. When they sang “A Whole New World” I couldn’t stop smiling. It was a wonderful iteration of the song and I have found myself singing that and “Prince Ali” quite a bit lately.
Guy Ritchie did a wonderful job toning down some of his Guy Ritchieisms and brings us a well crafted version of this Disney classic. The city of Agrabah felt like a real place and I loved it’s position along the ocean. Adjusting Jasmine’s story to be a more central part of the plot was a wonderful update and truly gave her character more skin in the game this time around. I loved seeing the role she plays as the true leader of Agrabah and I appreciated the character of Aladdin understanding that role but not being dumbed down in the process.
Disney has had a few live action versions of their classic animated films and this one deserves to be near the top of that list. It was a fun adventure with humor, songs and dance numbers. The cast was perfection and it almost makes me want to see a sequel just to get them all together again. Disney you have done it again. Now let’s see if Lion King can deliver.