How do you draw audience to theatres when they already know the full plot of a movie? Simply banking on nostalgia is a risk Disney doesn’t take as Aladdin (2019) directed by Guy Ritchie is packed with crackling original humour, wonderful action-chase sequences and features fresh new talent despite taking us on a journey with characters we already know and love.
After Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s latest live action remake transports us to the streets of Agrabad where we meet the charming street rat Aladdin played by Mena Massoud who teaches us that “when you don’t own anything, you have to pretend like you own everything.” Escaping through the crowded marketplaces, Aladdin dashes, jumps and swings his way out of trouble in the maze of a city with ease and finnesse.
Naomi Scott plays Princess Jasmine with a lot of heart although some of the more emotional scenes reveal a lack of her acting chops. It is amusing to watch fan favourites Abu, Rajah, Iago and the MAGIC carpet come alive. Grand Vizier Jafar not only gets a great costume but also one of the best dialogues in the film when he declares “Steal an apple, you’re a thief. Steal a kingdom, you’re a statesman.”
Nasim Pedrad is a hoot as the princess’ handmade and steals all of the scenes she is in. An SNL alum, it is hard to forget her role as Princess Jasmine in a hilarious SNL sketch featuring the Disney princesses. The undeniable real star of the show however is Will Smith as Genie who is as grand and fabulous as a 1000-year-old blue genie should be.
Some of the best features of this musical are the wonderful renditions of the songs from the original. Accompanied by gorgeous picturisation thanks to amazing choreography, props, and costumes the hits “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are sure to get any viewer excited even if they’re not a Disney fan. Jasmine and Aladdin’s iconic magic carpet ride to the tune of “A Whole New World” is another soaring moment in the film (not a spoiler).
We may be familiar with the beats of the movie due to the success of the 1992 animated feature, however the tale of Aladdin and Jasmine has survived centuries. Originating as early as the 10th century, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp found a place in The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights alongside other childhood favourites Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Sinbad the Sailor.
Despite some quarters of the audience being less than welcoming towards rehashes of old classics, it is important to note that remakes keep stories alive by presenting and passing it on to new generations. This film updates the story with a much more feminist and progressive tone and gifts the story to the 21st century audience.
Aladdin is a comedy musical that does its job right. Watch it while it’s still in theatres—the gorgeous soaring shots of the seas by cinematographer Alan Stewart and the wonderful soundtrack won’t be the same experienced at home.
Mrittika Anan Rahman is a daydreamer trying hard not to run into things while walking. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org