Disney has been working through its catalog, seamlessly transforming iconic animated tales into live-action films, including Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Dumbo. With its latest, Aladdin, Disney had lofty ambitions to translate the beloved 1992 animated classic into a live-action musical full of magic. The remake ultimately falls short in comparison to the original, but a few standout moments help sell the magical adventure in Agrabah, and evoke strong nostalgia from viewers. But, if Genie could grant audiences’ one wish? Don’t try to re-do a classic. It’s memorable for a reason.
The film starts off with the story’s narrator who tells his two children a true rags-to-riches adventure story about a boy named Aladdin, a girl named Jasmine, and a now-iconic lamp.
If you think you know the story, that’s because you do. It’s the same, beloved tale you may recall from the animated film, with subtle difference few and far between, except of course for the live-action nature and less-than vocal arrangements. An adventurous and romantic tale, that is where the film excels, packing in plenty of swashbuckling antics for Aladdin to prove he’s One Jump Ahead. And in terms of romance, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott (Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively) have such a strong chemistry; it’s like fire searing into their souls every time they make eye contact.
There’s also a plethora of high-stakes action sequences, heists, and stunts, in addition to friendship, romance, and humor. There’s truly something for everyone in this film. Several lines and one particular dance sequence brought big laughs from the crowd, but none were more iconic than the classic catchphrases you’ll hope to hear.
A Replica Soundtrack
Obviously, we can’t discuss the iconic film without talking about the music, a beloved and award-winning score. And, unfortunately, none of the vocal performances can compare to the originals we grew up on, and so, it ended up feeling like a pantomime production rather than a big blockbuster musical extravaganza. The singing felt more like a cover of the original songs, when they had the opportunity to do something new and set their own standard for how Aladdin could be, but alas, they played it safe. The film’s one original song, “Speechless,” doesn’t hit the high notes — but more on that later. Even though I love the original music, it doesn’t really add anything different or fresh to this adaptation other than nostalgia, especially as the vocals don’t measure up.
That being said, the music was updated for the current era with its musical stylings, giving a rich sound to audiences, if you can look past the underwhelming vocal performances.
The creators did give viewers ZAYN’s version of “A Whole New World” in an extra remix during the credits, and honestly, he is who should’ve voiced Aladdin, at least vocally.
The Right Look
Technically speaking, the film’s creative team did an overall incredible job bringing the city of Agrabah to life, with its use of bold, bright colors to make everything pop. Audiences are immersed in a dusty city covered in rainbows, with ornate dresses, towers of brilliant spices, stellar tapestries and drapes, and so much more. The set feels like they completely captured the essence of Agrabah, including a very ornate, glamorous royal palace, which was to be expected, but nonetheless looked beautiful on screen.
Jasmine’s Feminist Beliefs are *EVERYTHING*
Jasmine has always been a feminist cartoon icon and this flick amplifies that theme and takes it to a new level in our modern era of equality. Not only does Aladdin give us the princess who is anti-marriage, but this version of Jasmine has her own big ideas, hungry to be come sultan in her own right, and full of spicy courage and strength that was empowering AF to see on the big screen, and I am here for it. Jasmine was given more depth to explore her own desires, ambitions, and capability to rule, and was a very progressive princess overall.
One of her biggest breakthroughs was noted in a new solo song “Speechless,” which is focused on agency, and inspires women to rise up and be heard, instead of remaining quiet. While I loved the message, the vocals weren’t quite as enchanting as they could have been and overall, it felt like something was missing. Basically, the song doesn’t measure up to the quality of the original tunes. But Jasmine is still amazing.
The film — and this character — gives us important messages about self-confidence, being true to yourself and letting that shine, which we could all stand to hear more often.
Genie Is Here to Fabulize this Story
Smith’s Genie, who was basically a beefier version of the genie emoji personified, was a scene stealer and nailed the best comedic elements in the film.
While Robin Williams gave a revolutionary performance in the role, it was unlikely for rapper and action star Smith to live up to the late, great comedian’s performance. However, Smith put his own spin on the character, making the role his own by giving his genie a hip hop and a Fresh Prince vibe, which helped tie into the rest of the film and the modern-inspired score and choreography. He’s captivating, full of humor and heart, and does not disappoint.
Keeping the Integrity and Nostalgia In Tact
Overall, the integrity of the original flick remains. For a Disney live-action adaptation, Aladdin did well at adding in important life lessons, empowering females, replicating a classic score, and bringing the acclaimed animated film to life.
The flick kept every fan-favorite moment, but I only wish they dug deeper into backstories and characters rather than just regurgitating the most beloved moments with real people and real sets. While I did like it, that’s mostly due in fact since I enjoy musicals and the original film, but overall it was a very basic interpretation and I would have liked to see the story to go deeper or further.
In terms of a live-action adaptation, Aladdin worked as a whole, but fell just shy of capturing the original’s magic. While even the Broadway show adds depth with new emotional solos, this film doesn’t add much else beyond what we know already know about Agrabah. But even still, it works. Audiences will love reliving the tale of the princess, the street rat, and the lamp.